by David M. Reutter
Former Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) Secretary James Crosby and his protégé, Allen Clark, have been sentenced to federal prison terms for accepting kickbacks from profits generated from prison visiting park canteens.
PLN has previously reported on how prison officials' greed, corruption and brutality ran rampant under Crosby's reign as FDOC Secretary, which began in 2003 when he was appointed by then governor Jeb Bush. Prison guards sold, bought and consumed steroids, physically assaulted each other, hired "ringers" to play in the annual Secretary's Softball Tournament, and abused prisoners without fear of retribution. [See: PLN, Dec. 2006, p.1]. Crosby's appointment came as a promotion after death row prisoner Frank Valdez was beaten to death by guards at the Florida State Prison in Starke. Crosby was warden at the time.
While it has never been revealed exactly how federal officials became aware of Crosby and Clark's acceptance of kickbacks from American Institutional Services, a contract vendor, it has come to light that Clark secretly recorded conversations that implicated Crosby in the scandal. Both have been cooperating with prosecutors to implicate others in a wider investigation of current and former FDOC employees.
On April 24, 2007, Crosby was sentenced to 8 years in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution. "I failed a lot of people," said Crosby at sentencing. "I pled guilty and admitted this because I'm truly sorry for what I did. I'm sorry." Federal Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington was not impressed.
"The work you were doing requires the highest integrity," Judge Covington stated. "And I'm disappointed you still have not paid even a portion of the $130,000 [in restitution] you agreed to pay. Someone who was really sorry would not only apologize but pay at least a portion of it." She said Crosby deserved more than the 57 months the prosecution had agreed to.
Current FDOC Secretary James McDonough was the only witness called by the prosecution. "Corruption had become a cancer on the department. My office was a crime scene, taped-off - an indication we had serious problems," McDonough testified. "Some wanted me to excuse them for only being a little bit corrupt. They said we had to play along. It was an intolerable answer. They were protecting each other with a purposeful and cunning design."
McDonough added that recruiting, promotions - even the inspector general's office - were all corrupted. "Duty, honor and country must be the ethos of the department, not plunder, pillage and pleasure," he said. Crosby was granted one reprieve: He was given 30 days to report to prison.
Crosby was also named in a civil suit. In December 2006, Florida's Department of Management Services filed a lawsuit against him and his wife, Leslie Crosby. The state contended that the Crosbys had committed fraud by divorcing in order to shield James Crosby's retirement assets.
Because he had pleaded guilty to committing a crime related to his state job, Crosby's retirement funds, including a $172,000 lump sum received from the state, was subject to seizure. As part of his divorce settlement he had transferred those funds to his ex-wife.
The day after Crosby's sentencing, on April 25, 2007, Clark was sentenced to 31 months. "I can't get around the breaking of the public trust," Judge Covington told Clark. While Clark's cooperation resulted in a reduced sentence, he will still do prison time.
Both Clark and Crosby have since been imprisoned. Meanwhile, McDonough continues to clean up corruption in the FDOC - a task that will likely take quite some time given the scope of malfeasance in the state's prison system.
Sources: The Ledger; St. Petersburg Times
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