Ex-Forsyth councilmen to do prison time for corruption

jkovac@macon.comDecember 3, 2013 

Before a pair of bribe-taking ex-Forsyth city councilmen were sentenced to prison Tuesday -- one for two years, the other for 18 months -- they owned up to their wrongdoing.

One, though, did a better job of it than the other.

Desi Hansford stood in Courtroom A in U.S. District Court in Macon and spoke of regret, of his “courageless” actions.

“Never in a million years did I think that I would be up here,” Hansford, 35, said.

He’ll spend a year and a half in federal prison for accepting half of a $20,000 bribe from what he thought was a water and waste-treatment company seeking a city contract.

Hansford said he embarrassed his town and his family when on Jan. 18 he and former Councilman James Edward Calloway took $10,000 in cash, which the FBI had provided, from a government informant at a Butts County truck stop.

“I wish I could go back to that January meeting. ... I know the part I played was absolutely wrong,” Hans­ford said.

When U.S. District Judge Marc Treadwell, who lives outside Forsyth, asked Hansford why he didn’t just turn down the bribe, Hansford explained that the company trying to win the city contract had already won it but didn’t know.

Hansford, who’d been on the council five years, said he’d received tickets to sporting events in the past, “but that day money was involved.”

“I should have spoken up and spoken out, but I didn’t have the courage,” he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sonja Profit said Hansford, for his part, “did not mastermind this deal.”

The orchestrator of the graft, she said, was Calloway, who’d served on the council for 22 years.

He and Hansford served on the city’s Utilities Committee, which oversees Forsyth’s electric, water, sewer and telecommunications services. After Calloway solicited the bribe last December, the water and waste-treatment company told the FBI.

One of Forsyth’s former mayors along with Calloway’s former commanding officer in the Georgia National Guard and two preachers were in court Tuesday. They spoke glowingly of Calloway.

One of the ministers said Calloway “loves God, he loves his country, he loves his community.” The other described him as “very generous.” He said Calloway had once given his church a much-appreciated “love offering.”

When it was his turn to talk, Calloway, 60, begged the forgiveness of family, friends and “all of the people in Monroe County. ... I let a lot of people down. ... I was only trying to help somebody.”

That last line drew the ire of prosecutor Profit.

“I’m stunned, sir!” she said.

She said investigators learned that Calloway, before taking the payoffs, which came in two $10,000 installments, had talked of “trying to help someone” with the money -- namely Hansford, whose house had been in foreclosure.

But, Profit said, Hansford’s house was out of foreclosure by then, and had Calloway wanted to help his fellow councilman, he was financially well off enough to do so through “legal forms,” without taking a bribe.

Profit told of secretly recorded conversations “a cavalier Mr. Calloway” had with the FBI informant, how Calloway carried on like “someone used to that behavior.”

Profit said, “It appears from the evidence ... that Mr. Calloway had a different nature to him” than the one known to those who spoke on his behalf Tuesday. “A long-standing public official has betrayed so many people.”

Calloway could have been sent to prison for nearly four years. Instead, he’ll go for two and pay a $7,500 fine.

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

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