Ex-Senate chief begins prison term for bribery


Published: Tuesday, August 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
PENSACOLA - Former state Senate President W.D. Childers reported for prison Monday surrounded by family and friends, some of whom cried when he surrendered to begin serving a 3-year term for a bribery conviction.
Childers was ordered to report to the Escambia County Jail by noon Monday after the Florida Supreme Court last week refused to delay his sentence pending an appeal. He was expected to be transferred to a state facility at Lake Butler later Monday.
The 72-year-old declined comment and told the nearly 20 friends and relatives with him not to talk to the media.
"Don't say a word," Childers said, as he smiled and walked to the intake section of the county jail.
Supporters included his children and numerous young grandchildren.
Al Enfinger, a Chumuckla resident and former business associate of Childers', said he came to show support for his longtime friend.
"I'm sure he's innocent. He's one of the hardest working people I know," Enfinger said.
He predicted Childers' would serve his prison sentence without a problem.
"He's got the stamina to handle anything," Enfinger said.
Childers' conviction stems from his service as an Escambia County commissioner after he was forced out of the Senate by term limits.
He was convicted of bribing another Escambia commissioner, Willie Junior, to vote for the purchase of a defunct soccer complex in 2001. Junior testified that Childers gave him a cooking pot full of cash.
Junior was facing a series of corruption charges, but committed suicide by drinking antifreeze before his sentencing. He had pleaded no contest to bribery, extortion and other crimes in exchange for the promise of a lenient sentence and his testimony against Childers and other defendants.
Junior's death would make it difficult, if not impossible, to retry Childers if the Supreme Court should reverse his conviction.
Childers has been free on an appeal bond since his sentencing three years ago. He is appealing a pair of decisions by the 1st District Court of Appeal. The appellate court in February upheld his conviction 10-4 with one member abstaining.

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