© 2022 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Government Reveals Ongoing Investigations During Former Jackson County Staffer Sentencing

KCMOFederalCourthouse2.jpg
uscourts.gov

The U.S. Attorney in Kansas City is continuing to investigate potential federal crimes in Jackson County, according to Department of Justice lawyers at a sentencing hearing Thursday at the federal courthouse in downtown Kansas City.

It is "very much an active investigation," DOJ prosecutor Lauren Bell said.

The revelation came during the sentencing of  Calvin Williford, the former chief of staff to Mike Sanders when he was Jackson County executive.

Williford pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with kickback schemes that netted him and Sanders tens of thousands of dollars. Both admitted to using the ill-gotten gains for lavish travel and political dirty tricks.

After a two-and-a-half hour hearing, Williford was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to forfeit $36,000.

There was some mystery surrounding the Williford hearing. Sentencing documents in his case were sealed, suggesting he was cooperating with federal investigators.

It quickly became clear during sentencing that Williford was talking to federal agents. Brian Gaddy, Williford's lawyer, said his client "provided significant assistance" to investigators.

It was revealed in court that someone is a "target" of this investigation and the probe stretches into another jurisdiction, but who the target is and which other jurisdiction were not disclosed.

There is also an ongoing investigation into a lobbying contract. Again, all the lawyers talked in broad terms about that probe.

Sanders was sentenced Wednesday to 27 months in federal prison, three months more than what the government was seeking. U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark even said Sanders damaged democracy.

Williford's sentencing was completely different. Ketchmark seemed inclined from the beginning to sentence Williford to less time than the government wanted.

Gaddy asked for probation and no jail time. "I think you can take a chance on this man," he said.

Gaddy stressed Williford's continuing cooperation and his cooperation in the Sanders case. "I don't believe Mr. Sanders would have pleaded guilty without Mr. Williford's cooperation," he said.

Williford spent much of hearing in tears. "I'm filled with so much remorse and regret," he told the court.

While he spoke, Williford's sisters and other family members also cried.

"I lost the trust of friends and colleagues," he said.

Williford will surrender on Nov. 5, the same day Sanders goes to prison.

Sam Zeff is KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff

Celisa Calacal contributed to this story.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and powerful storytelling.
Your donation helps make non-profit journalism available for everyone.