Ex-Sumter official sentenced in extortion, bribery case

ALBANY, Ga. -- Former Sumter County Commissioner Al J. Hurley was sentenced to 36 months in prison Wednesday on bribery and related charges, according to officials with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Hurley, 55, of Americus, was sentenced by W. Louis Sands, U.S. district judge for the Middle District of Georgia, according to a Justice Department release. Hurley had been found guilty on one count each of attempted extortion and federal program bribery in a federal jury trial on Dec. 3, 2012, officials say.

The release states that Hurley was first elected to the five-member Sumter County Board of Commissioners in 1999. As the primary governing body for the county, the board presided over a variety of official matters, including the bidding process for various county contracts and the awarding of such contracts.

Evidence in the trial showed that from September to December 2011, Hurley, in his capacity as county commissioner, solicited and agreed to accept cash payments -- including $5,000 on Oct. 23, 2011 and $15,000 on Dec. 19, 2011 -- from a private contractor in exchange for Hurley's repeated promises to use official action and influence to help facilitate the award of county contracting work to the contractor.

Hurley is said to have promised the contractor that Hurley would help him win a $100,000 depot renovation contract in a city within Hurley's district. Trial testimony also established that, in order to elevate the bribe amount, Hurley invented two inside contracts that he claimed to have at a new racetrack project in his district, and claimed the contracts would influence the award of related contracting work in favor of the contractor. In his testimony, Hurley testified that the contracts did not exist, the release stated.

"An indispensable part of a democracy is the right of citizens to choose their leaders," said U.S. Attorney, Michael Moore. "Inherent in that process is the ability of the public to trust the people they elect. Instead of honoring that trust and serving his constituents, Mr. Hurley chose to exploit his position and enrich himself. When elected leaders put their positions up for sale, my office will be there to make sure they are held accountable."

Court officials say the case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by trial attorney Eric G. Olshan of the Criminal Division's Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney K. Alan Dasher of the Middle District of Georgia.