Former V.I. senator sentenced to 4 years in prison


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ST. THOMAS - Former Virgin Islands Sen. Alvin Williams Jr. will spend 52 months in prison after being sentencing Wednesday in federal court.

Whispers echoed throughout the court room as spectators prayed in support of the former senator who has been at the center of a political scandal since his arrest Nov. 8, 2012.

Williams's chief of staff, Kim Blackett was arrested the same day after federal agents stormed the V.I. legislative offices. Williams' senior adviser, Gary Sprauve, turned himself into authorities within a week.

The arrests were not entirely unexpected, as Williams's offices had been raided a little more than a year before after several agencies, including the FBI and IRS, executed a warrant.

All three faced bribery and fraud charges.

"This whole thing has been like a bad dream," Sprauve said in court, as both he and Blackett also received their sentences Wednesday.

Williams pleaded guilty to racketeering in January as part of a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Two months later, Sprauve and Blackett entered guilty pleas.

"If you had asked me five years ago, I never would have guessed that I would be standing here fighting for my freedom," Blackett said.

Blackett pleaded guilty to a territorial crime of making false claims, and Sprauve pleaded guilty to a territorial crime of conspiracy related to fraud.

District Court Judge Curtis Gomez sentenced Williams not only to his time of incarceration, but also to three years of probation, 300 hours of community service and an undetermined payment of restitution to the Virgin Islands government.

The prosecution and defense will be working to come up with a reasonable restitution payment, which will include $10,000 that came from developers of the wind turbines at Tutu Park Mall.

Both the prosecution and defense agreed that the $10,000 should not be returned to the developers because it was likely that the payment was a bribe, in which case they too could face charges, Gomez said.

U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Joycelyn Hewlett did not comment on whether the office planned to press charges against the developers.

Sprauve received a sentence of one year imprisonment, in addition to three years of probation and restitution, while Blackett received only three years of probation and restitution. Sprauve and Blackett also were sentenced to 300 hours of community service.

All three defendants are expected to share the burden of repaying the restitution, though the prosecution and defense still have yet to agree on how the burden shall be divided.

The court is expected to decide within two weeks, Gomez said.

Each of the defendants addressed Gomez prior to the sentencing, all of them apologizing to their families and to the community.

Gomez said that it was "remarkable and refreshing" to hear defendants taking responsibility for their actions, which he took into account when deciding upon the sentences.

Nevertheless, he said that all three defendants betrayed the trust of the public.

It was clear, Gomez said, and Williams admitted, that Williams had been the mastermind of the scandal, and had been the reason that the other two defendants acted as they had.

"I stand before you, your honor, in shame," Williams said to Gomez. "So many people believed in me over the years, and I have let them down."

Williams apologized to Sprauve and Blackett, and also repeatedly thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Lindquist for pursuing the charges against him.

Among the acts covered by the charges in the indictments delivered to Williams were:

- Williams's attempt to bribe Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls with $10,000 cash drawn from an ACE Development account. In exchange, Williams had expected the department would give no-bid contract work to ACE Development. Williams tried to assure Smalls that he had specifically worded legislation authorizing repairs to publicly owned guts to shield ACE from criminal charges related to no-bid contracts, but Smalls recognized the corrupt and illicit nature of the bribe and alerted authorities, according to an indictment.

- Williams's use of his influence to create legislation in support of the Raphune Vistas housing project. ACE Development received a contract of up to $2 million to perform work on the project and ultimately received $789,477 from the V.I. government as a result.

- Williams's increase of Sprauve's salary, after which he took a portion of the raise as a kickback.

- Williams's use of public funds to purchase an online degree that required Blackett completing coursework for him and committing wire fraud.

- Williams's acceptance of $10,000 from the developers of the wind turbines at Tutu Park Mall.

Williams, who was represented by attorney Gordon Rhea, was remanded into the custody of the U.S. Marshal's Service after the sentencing.

Attorney David Cattie requested that Sprauve have several days before being remanded to the V.I. Bureau of Corrections because he suffers from a pre-existing heart condition which requires regular treatment.

Blackett was represented by Federal Public Defender Gabriel Villegas.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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