Former Louisiana sheriff's imprisonment reduced 13 months

(ST. HELENA PARISH, La.) -- Former St. Helena Parish Sheriff Chaney Phillips' federal prison sentence was reduced by 13 months Monday, but he still must serve more than four years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola shortened the sentences of Phillips and his former political ally Emerson C. Newman after an appeals court threw out 10 counts related to the improper use of public money earlier this year.

Phillips, who has been in a federal prison in Florence, Colo., for the past 31 months, must serve the rest of an 84-month sentence.

Newman, who has served 31 months in federal prison in Texas, must serve the rest of a 43-month sentence.

In 1998, both men were convicted of 20 counts related to conspiracy, mail fraud, illegal monetary transactions and perjury.

A jury found Phillips, who before becoming sheriff worked as the parish tax assessor, put Newman and his wife on the payroll without expecting them to work in return.

Polozola rejected pleas for leniency from both men.

"The court finds no acceptance of responsibility either initially or now," Polozola said.

Polozola initially sentenced Phillips to 97 months in federal prison and Newman to 51 months in prison.

In July, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned 11 of the counts, necessitating the resentencing.

The resentencing hearing started Nov. 21, but because of time constraints had to be finished Monday morning.

Family and friends of Phillips and Newman attended both ends of the hearing, on either side of the long Thanksgiving break.

They filled the gallery of the federal courtroom, talking to each other about whether Phillips and Newman had lost weight and watching intently as lawyers argued and Polozola explained the reasoning for the sentences.

Polozola could have sentenced Phillips to between 70 and 87 months in prison.

Phillips, dressed in a black and white striped prison jump suit from the West Baton Rouge Parish Jail, asked for a sentence near the low end of that range, saying his parents were elderly and he has been a model prisoner.

"The only thing I have left is my family and my friends," Phillips said. "I want to eat my momma's biscuits and see my wife's smile."

Polozola could have sentenced Newman to between 37 and 46 months in prison.

Newman, dressed in an orange East Baton Rouge Parish Jail jump suit, initially declined to speak during the hearing, but reconsidered just before Polozola sentenced him.

"I am guilty of a lot of things, but not everything that came out (at trial)," Newman said.

"I think the government made an example out of me. That's all I got to say."

Both men said they will appeal the sentences.

Ex-sheriff gets time cut, still faces four years
November 28, 2000, Tuesday METRO EDITION
Copyright 2000 Capital City Press
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA.)
November 28, 2000, Tuesday METRO EDITION
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