HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hub City pastor Kenneth Fairley was sentenced Monday to serve time in federal prison for his role in defrauding the U.S. Government.
Fairley, 63, who was convicted Sept. 12, 2016, appeared before District Judge Keith Starrett, where he was sentenced to three years in in federal prison. He was ordered to pay $60,223.95 in restitution and a $30,000 fine and was given three years post-release supervision.
After a six-day trial, in September, Fairley was found guilty by a jury of his peers on charges of conspiracy to commit theft of government money and two counts of receiving, retaining, concealing or converting money that belonged to the government, all relating to the government agency of Housing and Urban Development through rehabbing houses in Hattiesburg.
According to court guidelines, Fairley's sentencing range fell between 33 to 41 months, meaning his sentence pending the judge's decision should fall in that time frame.
"There is no question in my mind there was a crime committed here," Starrett said. "It (HUD dollars) was intended for poor people, and for that money to be taken in just bad."
Starrett said he doesn't like passing on sentences, especially for someone who has done so much in the community.
Fairley, surrounded by his three attorneys, stood before Starrett and asked for leniency in the sentencing.
"I know there was a jury,… I believe they got it wrong," Fairley said.
During the sentencing, Fairley's attorneys called five character witnesses to the stand on his behalf.
Bishop Marvin Winans, the founder and pastor of Detroit-based ministry Perfecting Church, was the first character witness.
"He's never been selfish," Winans said. "He's never taken anything for himself, always given to others."
That testimony was rebutted by U.S. Prosecutor Jay Golden, who got Winans to take the witness stand and questioned him about a payment made to his church in 2011.
"There is a $5,000 payment… that came from Fairley on May 18, 2011, that was with HUD money from Mt. Carmel," Golden said.
Winans denied the knowledge of the money and said he couldn't confirm or deny where the money came from, but he did admit getting it once he was shown the actual check.
Mildred Gaddis was the second character witness to take the stand, and her remarks were brief, referencing a letter she faxed on behalf of Fairley.
"I've known him… and only as serving God and humanity," Gaddis said.
The third character witness to take the stand was 2nd Lt. Beverly of the Mississippi National Guard. Beverly told a story of how Fairley helped him become a man and took him under his wing.
"They had men in uniforms serving our country, and men in suits serving God," Beverly said. "I looked up to Pastor Fairley as a father figure."
The fourth to take the stand was Jerrius Dowdy, a young man who said he was a product of the Alpha Christian School, one of Fairley's other organizations.
"He taught me how to be a man," Dowdy said. "He always stresses to speak the truth."
The fifth and final witness to take the stand was Jeanette Smith.
"Rev. Fairley is a man that is always trying to help someone," Smith said. "I only know him as a giving person, never known him to take anything, always giving."
Fairley's attorney Betram Marks took over to continue for the defense, asking for leniency from the court, even suggesting community service or home confinement as the punishment.
"This is a single episode, a single act, he doesn't have a history of fraud," Marks said. "Fairley has learned his lesson."
Prosecutor Golden followed that with his own remarks, asking for permission to deliver a proffer, which was granted by Judge Starrett.
"We as that the court sentence him to the max range," Golden said. "This has been an attempt to portray Fairley as a pillar of the community, but the government has had to come to Hattiesburg more than once to address issues with Fairley and his family; both his sons are convicted felons."
Golden entered a Power Point and CD into the courts records of a mortgage fraud scheme from roughly a decade ago that involved allegations related to Fairley.
Golden continued, turning to the rehabbing of the HUD houses.
"The only project they completed is the one where his son is living now," Golden said.
Golden then brought up Marcus Dupree, a college athlete that made a special appearance on the ESPN show "30 for 30, The Best That Never Was."
Golden detailed to the court of how Fairley was his sports agent, and one time there was a car that Dupree paid for but was never given the money back.
Fairley disputed that, said it was false and Dupree bought him the car as a surprise.
"That case was ultimately brought to a settlement," Golden said. "A tiger doesn't change his stripes… and this defendant has not been a selfless leader in the community."
Fairley then used his time to address the judge and court, talking about growing up as a child and living through hard times where racial lines were an issue.
"My father taught me early on to level the field of play," Fairley said.
Fairley disputed the points brought forward by the government, saying that it just is not true.
"It's not all accurate," Fairley said.
Fairley said through Pine Belt Community Services, his non-profit organization, he has had a hand in refurbishing 25+ houses.
"This was our first time using HUD funds, we tried our best, those were the first houses we had rehabbed," Fairley said. "I'm just asking for leniency from the court, give me a chance to stay with my family."
While sentencing Fairley, Judge Starrett mentioned the numerous letters from prominent people in the community that he received asking for leniency.
"You are held to a higher standard, as someone who is well known in the community, you have an obligation to set an example," Starrett said.
Fairley will have to report to federal prison within 72 hours to 60 days of the sentencing.
According to Fairley's attorneys, they plan to appeal the conviction.
"This was a miscarriage of justice, we're ready to keep moving forward, we will be appealing this ruling right away, and we are confident we will have success on appeal," said attorney Bertram Marks.
New Orleans businessman Artie Fletcher, 56, was also sentenced today for his role in defrauding the U.S. Government with Kenneth Fairley.
Fletcher was indicted in March on charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government; conspiracy to commit money laundering; and engaging in monetary transactions to criminally derive property.
He pleaded guilty on Sept. 2, 2016 to one count of misprision of a felony, for failing to report a federal felony.
Judge Keith Starrett sentenced him to three years' probation, and ordered him to pay $60,223.95 in restitution, with no fine.
Fletcher said he would have the amount paid in full by the end of the week.
"In response of this case, I understand the importance of reporting a crime," Fletcher said.
Charles & Linda Bolton:
Former Forrest County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Charles Bolton and his wife Linda were set to be sentenced Monday Dec. 19, 2016 as well.
According to Judge Starrett, the time frame the court was involved in for the Fairley sentencing went longer than expected, and the Bolton's date was continued.
Their sentencing was moved to January 18, 2017 at 10 a.m. at the William M. Colmer Federal Courthouse in Hattiesburg.
The Boltons were indicted March 23, 2016 each on 10 counts of tax evasion and filing false tax returns.
Charles Bolton was convicted on four counts of tax evasion, not guilty on one count of tax evasion and guilty on all five counts related to filing a false tax return.
Linda Bolton was convicted on five counts of filing a false tax return and not guilty on one count of tax evasion, with a "no verdict" being reached on the remaining four.
They both remain free on bond.
Noteworthy spectators in court Monday included Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, Eddie Holloway and Councilwoman Deborah Delgado.