The defense for former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long has taken the first step toward appealing his 14-year federal prison sentence after an FBI sting, alleging that the court miscalculated the sentencing range.
Mr. Long qualified for up to 18 years, according to federal sentencing guidelines, but he was given the minimum sentence on Nov. 19 by U.S. District Judge Harry S. “Sandy” Mattice Jr.
“The court gave a sentence at the low end,” defense attorney Jerry Summers admitted Wednesday, “but we believe those guidelines were too high to begin with based on the evidence we put in.”
Virtually all federal defendants appeal their sentences as a matter of routine.
Mr. Summers said he will argue several points regarding Mr. Long’s sentence at the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, where the case eventually will be heard by a panel of appellate judges.
Mr. Long pleaded guilty in May to 27 counts involving extortion, money laundering, drug and gun charges. The FBI had followed him for about a year beginning in the spring of 2007, catching him on tape trying to shake down local convenience store owners and then conspiring to make money in the drug business with an undercover informant.
That informant, the Rev. C. Eugene Overstreet, helped the FBI set up a fake drug ruse in which Mr. Long believed he would benefit from the sale of about 26 kilograms of cocaine worth $525,000.
Mr. Long’s sentencing range of 14 to 18 years partly was based on that amount of cocaine and how much it was worth, but Mr. Summers argued during the sentencing hearing that his client technically had handled less than $50,000 worth of cocaine. That fact, he said, would have placed his client in a sentencing range of just seven to nine years.
Judge Mattice dismissed such arguments during the hearing, as well as arguments that Mr. Long should be given a lighter sentence simply because of his background, which had included a long career in law enforcement and stints with the military.
Federal prosecutor Gary Humble argued that Mr. Long deserved the harshest punishment possible precisely because of his background in law enforcement.
“Unlike your average drug dealer,” Mr. Humble said last week at the sentencing hearing, “Mr. Long took an oath (to uphold the law).”