7/21/2007Federal Court Upholds Speeding Ticket Extortion Sentence
Federal court upholds extortion sentence against small town police commissioner who pocketed traffic ticket fines paid in cash.
A three-judge panel of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the conviction of a Texas police commissioner caught extorting money from motorists. Sam Jimmie Mann, 64, was the top police official in the city of Kendleton between 1996 and 2000. Hundreds of travelers found themselves victimized as they passed through the small town of 600 residents on U.S. Highway 59 while making their way toward Houston.
"Like many municipalities, Kendleton derived substantial revenue from issuing traffic tickets," Judge Edith Clement Brown wrote for the court.
Mann ordered Kendleton police officers to collect as much of the citation fines as possible from motorists in cash so that he could pocket the money. Mann's scheme unraveled as Kendleton began collecting so much money from drivers that it fell afoul of the state's speed trap statute the prohibited cities from earning more than thirty percent of their budget from traffic tickets. A Texas state police investigation on May 8, 2000 uncovered "a big anomaly" when comparing the list of the city's citation recipients with the police department's bank deposit records. Specifically, they noticed only payments made by check or money orders were actually deposited in the account. Police officers received their salaries directly out of this account. Mann maintained several personal bank accounts with funding amounts that far exceeded his salary.
Mann also applied for federal grants to hire thirteen more police officers through the Department of Justice "Community Oriented Policing Services" program. His application was approved and Mann's department received $318,171 for the hiring of new, entry-level police officers. Mann filed a report with DOJ describing existing officers as "new hires." He then used the money to increase their salaries.
A jury found Mann guilty in 2003 and he was sentenced to five years and three months in prison and ordered to pay $390,931 in restitution. Although the circuit court threw out a number of convictions based upon Mann's interference with interstate commerce, Mann's punishment remains the same as the court upheld his sentencing based on the remaining charges.
A full copy of Thursday's decision is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.