Convicted Dixie officials seek freedom
Driggers and Land want to stay out of jail while appealing their conviction.
Published: Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 22, 2010 at 11:32 p.m.
Former Dixie County Commissioners John Lee Driggers and Alton Land want to remain free until an appeal of their bribery convictions has been resolved.
Documents filed by attorneys for the two men claim the appeal is not an attempt to delay their federal prison sentences. Instead, the attorneys are appealing because they claim Driggers and Land should not have been convicted because they did not accept anything worth $5,000 or more, the amount specified in the federal bribery law.
Driggers and Land each were sentenced earlier this month to three years and one month in federal prison following their convictions on bribery charges.
Chief U.S. District Court Judge Stephan P. Mickle allowed Land and Driggers to return to their homes following a sentencing hearing but told them they must report for their prison terms by noon on Feb. 11.
Over the past several days, their attorneys filed the request, and federal prosecutors filed a motion opposing the request. There was no indication when Mickle would rule on the matter.
Also in the federal files was a document from Land's attorney, Lloyd Vipperman, that indicated Land's sons are under federal investigation.
In the document discussing Land's income, Vipperman wrote, "The source of Defendant's earned income in 2007 and 2008 from Land's Palm Trees was payments made by his sons, Al and George Land. Their respective prosecutions made continued payments impossible."
Exactly what the Land brothers are being prosecuted for was not immediately clear.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, Karen Rhew-Miller, said her agency could not comment on ongoing investigations.
Land, Driggers and Billy Keen Jr., Dixie County's former building and zoning inspector, were convicted in August of conspiracy, soliciting bribes and lying to federal agents about the money they accepted in exchange for promising favorable decisions by the Dixie County Commission on specific development issues.
Keen was previously sentenced to 6 1/2 years in federal prison and three years' probation.
Driggers and Land were the first elected officials sentenced in a wide-ranging, undercover, federal corruption investigation.
In all, six former Dixie and Levy County officials have been convicted in connection with the same undercover case.
An FBI agent from New Jersey posed as a representative of a development company willing to pay bribes to ensure that the fictitious firm's plans did not encounter any stumbling blocks in the coastal counties.
The investigation expanded to include Levy County Commissioners Sammy Yearty and Tony Parker, who were convicted on similar charges and are scheduled to be sentenced in April.
Others convicted in the case include former Cross City Police Chief and suspended Town Council member Marcellus Dawson and the city's public works superintendent, Johnny Miller Greene. They are scheduled to be sentenced in May.
Most of those swept up in the case told their supporters or had their attorneys argue that they had been entrapped.