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Former SCMPD Police Chief Willie Lovett sentenced to 7.5 years in federal gambling, extortion case

Published: Feb. 6, 2015 at 7:25 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 8, 2015 at 7:55 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Former Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Chief Willie Lovett has been sentenced to 90 months (7.5 years) in prison and a $50,000 fine for his part in a federal gambling and extortion case.

Lovett has until 2 p.m. on March 10 to report to federal prison for his sentence. 

"I don't know why, Mr. Lovett, you made a decision to dishonor your badge. Dishonor your name and dishonor your department. That is a decision you made a long time ago and now you are going to have to live with the consequences of that decision," Judge William T. Moore Jr. said after reading his sentence.

Lovett's lawyers said they plan to appeal the sentence within the next two weeks. They are also going to try to have him granted bond while the appeal is pending, before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Obviously this is a difficult time with him and his family. It would be a difficult time for anybody in this situation, regardless of the charge and regardless of the publicity," Attorney Dow Bonds said.

His family said they trust in God and do not think he will serve a day behind bars.

“I do not believe it,” Elaine Lovett said. “First off, he never did anything wrong. And it was never proven that he did anything wrong." 

When asked about the length of his sentence, and how Lovett was going to hold up in prison, Elaine said, "It's not ever going to materialize."  

Lovett was convicted of extortion, making false statements and violating gambling laws in a federal court in November. Prosecutors said the former chief took bribes to protect carnival gambling. However, the judge decided Lovett was not a ringleader in the crime.

“He would have never done anything to jeopardize his position,” Elaine Lovett said.

Because there is no parole in the federal judicial system, Lovett will serve at least 76 months of his sentence if his appeals fail. He will report to prison in one month.

“We are not pleased with the total number of months given,” Bonds said. “I can't say that we're surprised. We're just going to move forward with the legal process, and see what we can accomplish in the court of appeals."

Attorneys for Lovett filed a motion in federal court in January to have a judge acquit the former police chief of charges against him or grant a new trial, claiming federal prosecutors and the FBI didn't have enough evidence to charge Lovett with gambling, extortion and making false statements. That motion was denied.

Additionally, Lovett's lawyers claimed prosecutors discriminated against black jurors in the jury pool.

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