Former Birmingham Water Works chair Sherry Lewis sentenced on two felony ethics charges
Former Birmingham Water Works Board Chairwoman Sherry Lewis on Thursday was sentenced for two felony ethics-law convictions. She will almost certainly avoid prison time if she satisfies the requirements of her sentence.
In a joint press release from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and FBI Birmingham special agent in charge Johnnie Sharp, it was outlined that Jefferson County Circuit Judge Clyde Jones sentenced Lewis under Alabama’s split sentence law to 10 years of imprisonment for both counts, to run concurrently, with a “reverse split” of two years in prison. However, under a reverse-split sentence, the term of imprisonment is not imposed until the end of the sentence — which in this case is three years of supervised probation.
Jones additionally ordered Lewis to pay a fine of $15,000 for each count, for a total of $30,000, and to complete a total of 400 hours of community service for charities or agencies that feed the elderly and homeless. If she completes these conditions and her probation period satisfactorily, the judge is expected to suspend the prison time involved in the sentence.
Lewis has been in county jail since being convicted in October but walked away Thursday as a free woman.
Sherry Lewis leaves the Jefferson County Jail. She begins supervised probation. pic.twitter.com/Ru1nOk6TpQ
— Lauren Walsh (@LaurenWalshTV) December 12, 2019
Her conviction followed a one and a half-week trial and involves Lewis having used her position as a director of the Birmingham Water Works Board to obtain personal gain for herself and her family, as well as having voted and participated in matters before the board involving issues about which she had a financial interest or gain.
The jury’s verdict was reportedly based on five days of testimony and hundreds of exhibits proving Lewis obtained three jobs for her son, tickets to the 2015 Cotton Bowl, trips and travel expenses and extravagant meals from a contractor performing work for the board.
This case was investigated by the special prosecution division of the Alabama attorney general’s office and the FBI. The state attorney general’s office prosecuted the case and specifically requested during sentencing that Lewis be required to perform a type of community service focused on charities or agencies that feed the elderly, needy and disadvantaged.
In a statement, Attorney General Marshall expressed his appreciation for the assistance of the FBI in this case.
“As first-vice chairperson of the Birmingham Water Works Board, Sherry Lewis advocated on behalf of, and voted for, compensation to pay a contractor three times their actual labor costs at the same time she was enjoying $63 a-la-carte steaks, $50 shellfish appetizers, and $70 bottles of wine bought for her by that contractor,” Marshall remarked. “Such abuse of public office is unacceptable. It is appropriate that she has been called to account and is being punished for this crime.”
The FBI’s Sharp added, “Lewis not only betrayed her community, but violated the law, and all in an effort to serve her own personal interests. Public officials entrusted to perform public service should do so legitimately and in the best interest of the community they represent. If not, they should expect the same outcome as Lewis had today, because the FBI and our partners will pursue you and hold you accountable for your actions.”
A contractor and a subcontractor have also been charged subsequent to this investigation and are awaiting trial in state and federal courts.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn