Federal judge goes well below guidelines in sentencing in Jacksonville Port Authority bribery case

Federal sentencing guidelines called for 10 years in prison for Tony Nelson, a Jacksonville businessman convicted of accepting bribes in his role as chairman of the Jacksonville Port Authority. Last week, Nelson was sentenced to 40 months in prison – exactly one-third of the time recommended by the guidelines. He was convicted in May of bribery, money laundering and lying to the FBI.

Nelson was a powerful businessman with powerful friends, evidenced by those who spoke on his behalf in federal court – from former Mayor John Delaney to former Sheriff Nat Glover, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Sentencing guidelines are just that – guidelines. They are built by a formula that considers the type of crime a person is convicted of and weighs other factors, including previous criminal record, to give the judge a recommended range for a sentence. In many cases, those guidelines are followed. But, ultimately, the decision rests with the judge.

This case is a prime example that, while the trial itself in a criminal case gets a lot of the attention and glitz, a powerful sentencing argument with people backing the defendant can also make an enormous difference. A dozen people spoke on Nelson’s behalf and the judge said he received 247 letters of support backing Nelson. Those who testified spoke about Nelson’s character and that the area of the law regulating bribes versus business is gray enough that they believe Nelson did not intentionally do anything illegal.
That doesn’t mean in every case you put every aunt, neighbor and teacher on the stand to talk about what a great boy or girl the person now convicted used to be. But it is an opportunity for the defendant to show remorse for his or her crime and have friends and associates tell the judge about the person’s character and likelihood of reoffending.
Our Jacksonville criminal defense law firm thoroughly researches every aspect of a criminal case – from the arrest all the way to the sentencing, if it gets that far. We have represented thousands of clients in Northeast Florida and tailor each defense strategy to the particular case.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County white collar crime lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.