Bill Hubbard sentenced to 42 months behind bars

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 22, 2011



NEW ORLEANS – Former St. John the Baptist Parish President Bill Hubbard received a three-and-a-half year prison sentence Thursday for conspiracy to solicit and receive bribes from three St. John Parish contractors.

U.S. District Judge Jay C. Zainey handed down the sentence, which also included a $50,000 fine, three years probation and 250 hours of community service within St. John Parish, Thursday morning at U.S. District Court in New Orleans.

Hubbard, 49, who took office in January 2008, resigned Sept. 24, 2009. He pleaded guilty to the bribery charges the following day.

Prior to administering the sentence, Zainey told Hubbard he abused his position as a public servant for his own gain.

“You chose to take advantage of people, including your own friends,” Zainey said. “You abused the public trust and your good deeds while in office are now overshadowed by your actions.”

Hubbard admitted to taking $20,000 in bribes from three parish contractors who held or were seeking contracts in St. John Parish. Court documents say Hubbard then used that money to purchase a Toyota Camry for his 31-year-old girlfriend.

Following his guilty plea, Hubbard cooperated with federal prosecutors in other corruption investigations involving public officials from Jefferson Parish. Hubbard’s information helped bring about resignations by Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard and Chief Administrative Officer Tim Whitmer. Whitmer’s insurance firm, Lagniappe Industries, received contracts from St. John Parish, while Hubbard’s construction company, Hubbard Enterprise, received favorable treatment in bids awarded in Jefferson Parish.

Zainey said Hubbard’s cooperation, which delayed sentencing for more than a year, was considered in the sentencing process. Zainey said Hubbard’s early guilty plea and favorable cooperation helped decrease the overall sentence. The maximum punishment for the crimes under federal guidelines is five years in prison and a $75,000 fine.

In a statement released Thursday, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said Hubbard’s sentence reflects recognition of his corrupt conduct and violation of trust as a public official.

“It is important that the public understands that the investigation which yielded Mr. Hubbard’s conviction continues, and that we will make every effort to address public corruption where ever we find it,” Letten said.

More than a dozen of Hubbard’s family members and friends were in attendance at the sentencing including his wife Sherry, who was visibly upset throughout the hearing and was sobbing as she left the courtroom.

In addition to the support inside the courtroom, Zainey listed the names of 34 people who submitted letters to the court supporting Hubbard. Some of the names included on the list were St. John Parish Councilmen Ronnie Smith and Steve Lee, Port of South Louisiana Executive Director Joel Chaisson, Port Commissioner Sheila Bonnette, and former St. Charles Parish School Board member Stephen Crovetto. Zainey did not release the contents of the letters.

“You have a lot of people supporting you,” Zainey said to Hubbard. “The people of St. John Parish trusted you. Your wife and children trusted you. You took an oath to act in the best interest of the people, but you abused that position. Your leadership was for your own personal gain. This is a very, very sad day, but the cycle of corruption must end.”

In a statement to the court, Hubbard apologized for his actions and those he hurt in the process.

“I made a mistake and I’m here to face the consequences,” Hubbard said. “I apologize to the people of the parish. I apologize to my three friends, who were vendors in the parish. There’s so much I’d like to say, but the gist of it is, I’m sorry.”

Hubbard has been ordered to surrender to the Federal Bureau of Prisons by March 16. His attorney, Donald “Chick” Foret, requested to the court that Hubbard be allowed to serve his time at a Pensacola, Fla. facility so that he can be closer to his family.

The Pensacola prison camp, according to the Bureau of Prisons website, is a minimum-security facility with dormitory housing, a relatively low staff-to-inmate ratio, and limited or no perimeter fencing. Minimum-security institutions are work-oriented and many are located adjacent to larger institutions or on military bases.

The Pensacola facility is located on Saufley Field, an outlying base of the Pensacola Naval Air Station.

The prison is about 50 miles east of Mobile, Ala., and 150 miles west of Tallahassee, Fla.