The trial for a Grovetown city councilman facing federal bribery charges began Monday in Alabama.
Opening statements and the beginning of testimony began in Leland J. “Sonny” McDowell’s trial, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Clark Morris, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Middle Alabama District.
McDowell, who pleaded not guilty to the charges June 15, is accused of offering a kickback to a former Alabama Department of Public Safety employee in 2007. He and James E. Potts, of Montgomery, Ala., face a four-count indictment alleging bribery related to a program receiving federal funds.
Potts pleaded guilty to bribery as part of a negotiated plea agreement Monday morning and is expected to testify against McDowell, Morris said. The trial is expected to finish before week’s end.
Part of Potts’ public safety job in July 2007 was helping the Alabama Department of Human Resources solicit bids for an electronic fingerprint system. At that time, McDowell owned Southern Detention Technologies, which sold fingerprint machines. He is now the owner of Grayco Detention Equipment.
McDowell said he sold the department a machine to be used for fingerprint-based background checks on people who were going to work with children, the elderly and otherwise vulnerable people.
The federal grand jury’s June indictment accused him of offering, and Potts of accepting, a $1,700 check and $1 for every fingerprint scan related to the DHR, according to the statement.
If convicted, McDowell faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
McDowell was elected to Grovetown City Council in 2009, and his term runs through the end of this year. If he is convicted or pleads guilty, he’ll be removed from the council, Mayor George James has said.
City council members re-elected McDowell in January as the city’s mayor pro tempore.