Former Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion faces prison time
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Former Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion faces prison time

March 22, 2010, 8:41 pm
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Former Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion faces prison time
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Broward County FL - March 22 - Former Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion faces prison time when he is sentenced Friday -- the first of three Broward political figures busted in separate FBI stings to reach the end of his case. Relatives and friends of disgraced ex-Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion have sent letters singing the politician's praises to the judge who will sentence him Friday to a likely prison term.

Notably absent: letters of support from many other elected officials.

When Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne faced sentencing in 2007 on tax evasion and mail fraud charges, powerful political figures lined up in support. Like Jenne, Eggelletion had been in politics for decades, though Jenne had a higher stature as a former Florida Senate president and a countywide sheriff.

Eggelletion is walking a lonelier road in the political arena -- most of the 50 or so letters written to U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks came from relatives and longtime friends. A few politicians wrote letters: three black Democratic state representatives from Broward, Joe Gibbons, Hazelle Rogers and Perry Thurston.

``You have before you a very good person at his lowest point in life,'' Thurston wrote.

Eggelletion, a Democrat, has generally been shunned by Broward's political community, which had for years watched as he became ensnared in controversies ranging from a lobbying scandal to having to repay the county for personal expenses on his credit card.

``He has publicly embarrassed both himself and his family,'' wrote Ben Kuehne, one of his attorneys, telling the judge that Eggelletion has acknowledged his crime. ``He is a prominent African-American political leader now identified as an example of the corrosive embrace of private gain while pursuing public service.''

Eggelletion's supporters wrote about his early success as valedictorian of his kindergarten and his growth as a politician representing neglected neighborhoods.

They are asking Middlebrooks to spare him prison time, but that request is not likely to be granted.


  Federal guidelines call for between 2 ½ and just over three years in prison. Middlebrooks could stay within the guidelines or, potentially, go up to five years. Eggelletion has requested that he be allowed to surrender voluntarily and go to prison in April.

In December, Eggelletion pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The sting started in 2006 when an undercover agent made an introduction to Eggelletion by making a $5,000 donation to his golf foundation. That led Eggelletion and co-conspirators to team up in what he believed were business deals in the Bahamas. Eggelletion introduced undercover agents to two Broward businessmen who he said would help them hide proceeds from an investment fraud scheme.

Ultimately, the men laundered about $900,000 in 2007 -- and Eggelletion received about a $23,000 cut, authorities say. Co-defendant businessman Ronald Owens pleaded guilty in January and faces sentencing in April. The cases against businessman Joel Williams and Sidney Cambridge, a banker in the Bahamas, are pending.

Eggelletion was arrested Sept. 24 at his home and led away in handcuffs by the FBI in front of his grandchildren.

It was part of a trio of separate federal corruption cases also ensnaring then-School Board member Beverly Gallagher and former Miramar City Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman.

The arrests sparked a push for ethics reform and helped Broward's outnumbered GOP make inroads. Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Dania Beach Commissioner Al Jones, a Republican, to Eggelletion's seat representing a Democratic black majority district spanning from Fort Lauderdale to Pompano Beach.

The arrest closed Eggelletion's two-decade political career. He briefly served on the Lauderdale Lakes City Commission before winning a seat in the Florida House in 1992 and his county seat in 2000.

Despite his ascent, he developed a reputation for ethical missteps and sometimes butting heads with constituents. He had a falling out with Lauderdale Lakes city officials when he clashed with them about annexation.

``Humility was not one of his finer characteristics. That was off-putting to a lot of us that worked in government circles,'' Lauderdale Lakes Commissioner David Shomers said.


  In 2002, Eggelletion faced heat for $2,600 in personal expenses on his county credit card and repaid the county. He also logged sick time at his school district job while on a county trip to Brazil.

In 2005, he was fined by the state Ethics Commission for voting to give a contract to a garbage hauling company that was his lobbying client. But he easily won reelection in 2008 with a war chest of nearly $280,000.

Eggelletion's demeanor in recent months has been in sharp contrast to his personality while a commissioner. In the past, Eggelletion was defiant when asked about ethical issues, and became known for lengthy, passionate speeches.

He now appears a broken man who speaks quietly and talks about God. Eggelletion admitted in court to being treated for alcoholism and prostate cancer, and he broke down in tears after his plea hearing

Author: Nelly Castillo
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