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Tough on Prisoners Florida Sheriff Avoids Prison

In the March, 1999, issue of PLN we reported the arrest of Marion County, Florida, sheriff Ken Ergle, on corruption charges. Ergle had previously gained notoriety for housing county jail prisoners in tents under draconian conditions and charging them "rent" and a $10 "fee" in order to seek medical attention. Ostensibly all of this was designed to "save taxpayer money."

In April, 1999, Ergle pleaded guilty to stealing $155,000 in cash from the sheriff's department which he used for personal expenses. On April 23, 1999, Ergle was sentenced to two years of house arrest, 18 years of probation, 240 hours of community service, repaying the money he stole and reimbursing the state of Florida for the cost of their investigation into his corrupt activities.

In declining to sentence Ergle to prison, judge Robert Rawlins cited Ergle's contributions to the community and the perils of sending law enforcement officials to prison. Ergle has apparently neither a sense of irony, nor shame, in that he built his political career as a "tough on prisoners" sheriff by going to considerable lengths to further immiserate the lives of Marion county jail prisoners. Yet Ergle had no qualms about going to into court himself and groveling for mercy to be spared the ordeal of prison.

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