Former Grovetown councilman sentenced on federal charges

Former Grovetown city councilman Sonny McDowell was sentenced to 60 months probation for federal bribery charges on Monday.

A former Grovetown City Council member convicted of federal bribery charges in April was sentenced Mon­day to probation.

A federal jury convicted Leland J. “Sonny” McDowell of two counts of bribery after a three-day trial in Montgomery, Ala.

Federal Judge Mark E. Fuller sentenced McDowell to 60 months of probation and 500 hours of community service, according to Clark Morris of the U.S. attorney’s office for the Middle District of Alabama.

“It’s as good as it could have come out today,” McDowell said in Montgomery. “And it’s over. I’m coming home. … I just get to come home and live my life as normal as I can.”

McDowell was elected to the city council in 2009 and resigned in April after the conviction. Lee Briggs was appointed in August to fill the rest of his term, which expires at the end of the year.

McDowell, who pleaded not guilty in June 2012, was accused of offering a kickback to a former Alabama Depart­ment of Public Safety employee in 2007.

McDowell and James E. Potts, of Montgomery, faced a four-count indictment alleging bribery related to a program receiving federal funding.

Potts pleaded guilty to bribery as part of a negotiated plea agreement and testified against McDowell, Morris said.

Part of Potts’ public safety job in July 2007 was helping the Alabama Department of Human Resources solicit bids for an electronic fingerprint system. 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 would work with children, the elderly and other 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 department, according to the statement.

McDowell faced up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each charge, Morris said.

“It’s a relief,” McDowell said. “At least the wondering what’s going to happen is over.”

McDowell, who closed Grayco at the end of May as a result of the charges, said he hopes to join the workforce again soon.

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