Times staff report
Sherry Lewis, the former board president of the Birmingham Water Works who faced up to 20 years for two felony ethics convictions, has avoided jail time.
On Thursday, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Clyde Jones sentenced Lewis to 36 months of supervised probation, 400 hours of community services and ordered her to pay court fees and fines after she was convicted back in October.
Lewis will have to pay a $30,000 fine ($15,000 for each count) and serve 400 hours of community service for charities or agencies that feed the elderly and homeless.
Lewis was released from custody after being held for after 22 days following her conviction for using her position for personal gain, or for the gain of a family member, and voting on matters in which she or her family members had financial interest — including a no-show job for a family member, free meals and other improper benefits.
Instead of going to jail, Lewis will begin serving eight years of probation, with 10 years suspended and if she satisfies the terms of her probation and community service will likely remain free.
During the sentencing Jones said he was impressed by more than 60 letters in support of Lewis, who had a courtroom filled with supporters.
“These are the people that know what kind of person I am and know my heart, said Lewis.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and FBI Birmingham special agent in charge Johnnie Sharp said in a press release that Lewis was sentenced 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.
In a statement, Marshall said, “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. 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 said, “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.”