BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge handed down a 33-month prison sentence Thursday to a former Alabama lawmaker who acknowledged taking bribes to help fight environmental cleanup efforts in his state’s biggest city.
Local news outlets report a federal judge sentenced former state Rep. Oliver Robinson on Thursday. Robinson previously pleaded guilty to bribery and tax evasion.
Robinson said he had been given a $375,000 contract — paid to him through his non-profit Oliver Robinson Foundation — and in exchange was asked to use his influence as a public figure to oppose Environmental Protection Agency efforts to prioritize cleanup and expand a Superfund site in north Birmingham.
Robinson, 58, apologized to the court and the people of Birmingham.
“My people in North Birmingham, my deepest apologies. I confessed my charges and I ask forgiveness from the people of Alabama and from God. I look forward to continuing to the path of redemption with every step I take for the rest of my life,” Robinson told the judge, according to ABC 33/40.
The sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon is what federal prosecutors requested. They had urged leniency for Robinson, saying he was remorseful and had cooperated with prosecutors.
Robinson’s testimony helped lead to the convictions of Joel Gilbert, a partner with Balch & Bingham law firm, and Drummond Co. Vice President David Roberson. Prosecutors noted that jurors found them guilty of conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud and money laundering.
Prosecutors argued that Gilbert and Roberson were intent on protecting Drummond-owned ABC Coke from the tremendous potential costs associated with being held responsible for pollution at the site.
Assistant U.S. Attorney George Martin told the judge that his instincts as a prosecutor were “to stick it to him” with a tough sentence recommendation.
“But, Oliver Robinson’s case is unique … ” Martin said. “He is the only elected official I know of that has humbly and truthfully accepted responsibility for his crimes.”
The judge also ordered Robinson to pay $169,151 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and to forfeit $390,783.
During the July trial, Robinson, a former college basketball star and one-time rising star in the Alabama House of Representatives, testified he felt like he sold out the people he had been elected to represent.
Robinson had served in the Alabama House of Representatives from 1998 until his sudden resignation in 2016. Robinson was a standout basketball player at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and played a season with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.
“Robinson betrayed his constituents and neighbors in north Birmingham and Tarrant, selling his elected office to special interests for personal profit. An elected official can scarcely commit a more egregious crime,” U.S. attorney Jay Town said in a statement.