Jury unanimous: Yearty, Parker guilty

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Sentencing is April 5

By Lou Elliott Jones

Levy County Commissioners William Samuel "Sammy" Yearty and Robert Anthony "Tony" Parker were unanimously found guilty by a jury of conspiring and accepting a $10,000 bribe to pay for a trip to New York City in December 2007 in return for favorable treatment of a project proposed by an FBI agent posing as a developer.

Yearty was also found guilty on a third charge — lying to a federal agent — for denying in an interview that he had accepted a lunch, dinner or gift from anyone.

The two men had no comment on the outcome of the five-day trial and hugged family members who had sat throughout the week watching proceedings.

Yearty's attorney Rod Smith had no comment and said he had some motions to file in the case. Earlier Parker's attorney Gloria Fletcher and Smith asked federal District  Chief Judge Stephan P. Mickle to acquit the pair, but the judge refused to do so during the course of the trial and at the end of the case.

The jury of eight women and four men — two alternates were dismissed — began deliberations at about 12:30 and returned the verdict at about 6:30 p.m. They deliberated over lunch and with only one 15-minute break at 4:15 p.m.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg McMahon attributed the conviction — his fourth political corruption case verdict in as many months — to the video tape showing FBI Special Agent Sean Quinn, who posed as developer Sean Michaels from Newark, N.J., counting out a large stack of $100 bills into 10 stacks of $1,000 each and handing over $4,000 to Parker and $6,000 to Yearty.

The jury viewed the 2 1/2 hour tape during their deliberations as they encountered a problem with the playback equipment and had to seek help to resolve the problem shortly after 1 p.m. They also asked questions about the effect of convicting one instead of two men on the conspiracy charge and whether they were to follow the indictment or the jury instruction in considering the verdict.

The convictions came almost two years to the day of the dinner at the Hilton Hotel in Gainesville where the men were shown in a video getting the cash. Michaels met the men on Dec. 5, 2007, to finalize plans for the trip and hand over the cash.

Quinn posed as a developer interested in locating a high-density project in Levy County even though the county's comprehensive land use plan does not allow for such developments because the county does not provide the necessary water and sewer service.