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Yearty sentenced to federal prison

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By Lou Elliott Jones

Third-generation County Commissioner Sammy Yearty has ordered to serve 33 months in federal prison followed by three years probation and pay $10,300 in fines for soliciting and accepting a part of a $10,000 bribe from an undercover FBI agent posing as a developer and lying to the FBI about it. Yearty, who has held office since being appointed in 1978 by then-Gov. Reubin Askew, was sentenced on Monday afternoon in Gainesville by federal District Chief Judge Stephan P. Mickle after a string of supporters testified to his many kindnesses and the good job he has done in office. Yearty's father and grandfather were also county commissioners. Mickle, who earlier sentenced Commissioner Tony Parker to six months house arrest and five years probation on bribery charges, told Yearty "your actions were different." Parker had only encountered the undercover FBI agent once before attending a dinner in a Gainesville hotel suite where the agent gave Parker $4,000 and Yearty $6,000 to pay for a weekend trip to New York City in December 2007. "Behind closed doors you took a large amount of money," Mickle said. And he told the commissioner he worked to keep it secret. The judge condemned "the self dealing of officials that is damaging to the public's faith." Mickle said, "The sentence reflects the seriousness of the the offense." This is the second of three cases in the FBI's investigation into corruption in Levy County. The third person charged in cthe Levy County case, Pamela Blair, goes on trial on June 1 in Mickle's court. She is accused of lying to the FBI in an interview. Just hours before Yearty was sentence, the last official to be sentenced in a corruption investigation in Dixie County was given probation for his role in accepting a $600 bribe from the same undercover agent in the Levy case.. Yearty, Parker and Blair were indicted on Oct. 20, 2008, but the document was sealed to prevent the news from influencing the Nov. 4, 2008 general election. After Yearty and Parker won re-election, the indictment was unsealed on Nov. 5 and Gov. Charlie Crist suspended them from office. Crist's office has maintained that it is up to the state Senate, under Florida law, to decide the question of removing the convicted commissioners from office. The Senate is not expected to take action until all appeals have been exhausted. More details in Thursday's issue of the Chiefland Citizen.