BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Federal prosecutors are seeking nearly three years in prison for a former legislator who admitted taking bribes to fight environmental cleanup efforts in Birmingham and then became a key witness against a coal company executive and lawyer who participated in the alleged scheme.
Former state Rep. Oliver Robinson will be sentenced Thursday in federal court in Birmingham after pleading guilty to bribery and tax evasion. Robinson testified in July that he had been compensated through a consulting contract to speak out against the Environmental Protection Agency's effort to expand a Superfund site and prioritize the site's expensive cleanup.
Robinson's testimony helped lead to the conviction of Joel Gilbert, a partner with Balch & Bingham law firm, and Drummond Co. Vice President David Roberson. Jurors found them guilty of conspiracy, bribery, three counts of honest services wire fraud and money laundering.
In a statement, Robinson's attorneys wrote that he had been both "100 percent redemptive and 100 percent cooperative."
"He has totally accepted responsibility and deeply and humbly apologized for his actions both publicly and privately. Oliver has made no excuses for his wrongful conduct. He has earnestly sought redemption and his actions have exposed a corruption that he regrets being a part of. He knows it will take a long time to re-earn the trust of the many who he has let down," attorneys Richard Jaffe and Michael Whisonant wrote.
Court documents show prosecutors are seeking a sentence of 33 months in prison for Robinson. They wrote that Robinson should be punished but should also be rewarded for accepting responsibility and cooperating in the case. Prosecutors are also asking Robinson to pay $169,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and forfeit more than $390,000.
"That Robinson, who used his official position on behalf of a law firm and coal company for personal profit and to the detriment of his community, will serve significant time in prison and be divested of his ill-gotten gains sends the appropriate message of deterrence," prosecutors wrote.
During the July trial, Robinson, a former college basketball star and one-time rising star in the Alabama House of Representatives, testified he had felt like he sold out the people he had been elected to represent.
Robinson had served in the Alabama House of Representatives from 1998 until his sudden resignation in 2016. Robinson was a standout basketball player at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and played a season with the NBA's San Antonio Spurs.