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Government: Sanders Scheme Used To Pay For 'Underhanded Political Shenanigans'

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

Former Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders has asked a federal judge to spare him prison time because of his past history of public service and time in the military.

But the Department of Justice is having none of it. In the first paragraph of its sentencing memo filed Wednesday, the DOJ said Sanders, as county executive and prosecuting attorney, had a "duty to uphold and execute the laws of the county."

Instead, the government argues, Sanders "spent his years in office misappropriating money from political and campaign accounts." He then spent thousands on luxuries and "to hide underhanded political activities."

Sanders pleaded guilty in January to one count of wire fraud. The government says Sanders would have checks cut from three political committees that he controlled. Then he would have other people cash the checks and kick most of the money back to him. In its memo, the government called the scheme "political shenanigans."

Sanders and the government agree on one thing—that he forfeits $40,000 of his ill-gotten gains. But that's where the agreement ends.

The DOJ is asking for 18 to 24 months in prison. Sanders, the memo says, is an "educated lawyer" and was aware his actions were illegal.  Further, Sanders didn't need to steal to "meet the basic necessities of life." Instead, he "chose to steal," so he could stay at luxury hotels in California and build and stock a wine cellar.

Sanders memo, arguing for no prison time, says he accepts full responsibility and the "remorse he has for his actions is palpable." Sanders has voluntarily surrendered his law license and hopes to run a program to prevent violent crime at the Church of God in Christ International, his memo states.

If the court decides Sanders needs to go to prison, he is asking for a sentence of 12 to 18 months and that he serves his time at the minimum security federal prison in Yankton, South Dakota.

Sanders will be sentenced next Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Roseann A. Ketchmark.

Sanders' co-defendant will be sentenced next Thursday. Calvin Williford was Sanders' chief of staff. He's also pleaded guilty to the same scheme.

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

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.
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