Judge reduces former Navy captain's sentence in bribery, conspiracy case Defendant admits his guilt in scheme

June 21, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

A former Naval Academy public works officer shaved 16 months off his sentence for bribery and conspiracy in a scheme in which he accepted gratuities in exchange for influencing the awards of construction contracts.

U.S. District Judge John R. Hargrove sentenced James Weston to 24 months in prison, three years' probation and a $7,500 fine.

Weston, a former Navy captain, had been given a 40-month sentence in July, but the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out that ruling, saying Judge Hargrove had improperly decided federal sentencing guidelines.

On Friday, the judge imposed the penalty sought by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane F. Barrett, who asked for the maximum sentence allowed under the Circuit Court's explanation of the guidelines.

"We feel very strongly that to impose anything less would undercut the seriousness of the offense," Ms. Barrett said. "He used his uniform and all it stood for so that he could benefit."

Weston's uniform Friday was a khaki prison outfit.

He has served 10 months of his sentence at the Boron Federal Prison Camp in California.

He was convicted of accepting gifts, including an air conditioner, a washer and dryer and a lawn mower in exchange for his efforts to influence the award of construction contracts at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

He was also found guilty of pressuring other naval officers to buy Amway products from him and his wife.

Weston insisted throughout his trial last year, and during his first sentencing, that he was innocent of the charges.

But Friday, he said he came to terms with his guilt one month ago, and he praised Ms. Barrett for prosecuting him.

"I was driven by pride, by thirst for position and power," he told Judge Hargrove. "I accept full responsibility for what happened during those charges."

Weston said he had undergone a religious conversion in prison and was working with other inmates to help them gain their high school equivalency diplomas.

William Ferris, his lawyer, argued for a lighter sentence, but Judge Hargrove said he was imposing the maximum allowed because Weston violated a powerful position of trust.

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