RENO, Nev. (AP) — Ex-Nevada power broker Harvey Whittemore admitted he was "arrogant and naive" but insisted "I'm not greedy" before a judge sentenced him Monday to two years in prison for funneling more than $130,000 in illegal campaign funds to Sen. Harry Reid's re-election committee in 2007.
U.S. District Court Judge Larry Hicks also ordered Whittemore to pay $100,000 in fines for his three felony convictions and serve 100 hours community service upon his release from a yet-to-be determined prison that houses white-collar criminals.
The 61-year-old former lobbyist and wealthy developer is to surrender on his own to federal authorities on Jan. 31, 2014.
"These offenses go to the very heart of our electoral process," Hicks said.
Prosecutors said Whittemore gave money to family members and employees in 2007 to make contributions he had promised to Reid while concealing himself as the true source to skirt campaign finance laws.
Reid has not been accused of any wrongdoing. He has said he was unaware of any potential problems with the money he received.
Whittemore insisted through his lawyers he didn't know he was breaking the law. He tearfully addressed the court for the first time directly for more than a half-hour of Monday's six-hour sentencing hearing, halting several times to compose himself, remove his glasses to wipe his tears, and at one point check on a daughter who was crying in the courtroom gallery.
"Looking back, it was arrogant and naive to believe my conduct was lawful, but I cannot change that now. As a lawyer I gave myself bad advice," Whittemore said. "I am sincerely, wholly sorry for my wrong decision and I'm here in a state of utter shame."
Prosecutors wanted the judge to send Whittemore to prison for more than four years, while Whittemore's lawyers argued he should be spared prison time based partly on his history of extraordinary charitable giving.
Whittemore was convicted in May on three felony counts related to his use of conduit, or "straw" donors, to take money he gave them and in turn write checks totaling more than $133,000 to Reid's 2007 re-election campaign. The jury deadlocked on a fourth charge of lying to the FBI.
Hicks said he was deviating from the sentencing guidelines that suggested a minimum of 41 months in prison partly because of Whittemore's history of extraordinary charitable giving — an estimated $12 million over the past 20 years, much of it to promote medical research, athletics and education at the University of Nevada, Reno. But the judge the crimes were too serious to justify probation without prison time.
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