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Kansas Sheriff, Lawyer, Jailed for Sweetheart Jail Contract

Negotiating their way out of 21 felony bribery charges, a former Kansas sheriff and a lawyer-cum-executive for a private prison contractor each pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of conflict of interest on December 18, 2002, getting only one year in county jail and a $750,000 restitution order.

Reno County Sheriff Larry Leslie entered into a "prohibited contract" with lawyer Gerald Hertach when Leslie accepted $285,000 in bribes from Hertach for Leslie's part in awarding first a $1.5 million three-year contract and then an over $2 million four-year contract to Hertach's corrections company MgtGp Inc to run the Reno County jail annex. They had been indicted in May, 2001 after which Leslie resigned [PLN, Aug. `02].

Sentencing Judge Michael Barbera rejected a plea agreement involving only $750,000 in restitution because he doubted the two would pay. He did offer them a chance to do so after serving 90 days, however. Leslie said the $285,000, on top of his $59,762 annual salary, was "all gone." Leslie, Hertach and MgtGp Inc. were ordered to pay the $750,000. Hertach's attorney Steve Joseph opined that the punishment was "a little bit harsh for a class B misdemeanor." Hertach had funneled the shared illicit profits to Leslie through dummy Nevada corporations.

For their protection, Leslie was transferred to Saline County jail while Hertach went to Rice County jail. Saline County Sheriff Glen Kochanowski, who used to fraternize with Leslie at Kansas Sheriff Association meetings, promised to segregate Leslie from the general population, saying "we would do that for any law enforcement officer in our custody."

The illegal scheme was reported to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the FBI by long time Leslie friend Reno County narcotics detective Howard Shipley. Shipley became suspicious when Leslie irrationally complained that expensive Styrofoam cups were being used in the jail instead of cheaper plastic cups - while the jail's costs were fixed under the private contract with MgtGp Inc. "I don't know I'd ever seen him that upset," Shipley said.

Source: Wichita Eagle

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