A courtroom full of well-wishers wasn't enough to keep former Lee County Commissioner Tammy Hall from serving some time in prison.
Hall will serve six months following her guilty plea on one count of wire fraud for spending more than $33,000 of campaign funds on personal expenses.
"I want to thank the people of Lee County and apologize for my actions. I will take this time to reflect," Hall said in a brief statement exiting the U.S. Courthouse in Fort Myers on Monday.
Tammy Hall. PHOTO PROVIDED.
"We want to thank the court for its just sentence. We realize the pressure the court was under but we are thankful the court took into consideration all the factors and we are in agreement of the sentence," Eric Padron, Hall's attorney said.
Hall will have to voluntarily surrender herself for incarceration by Feb. 14 to the Bureau of Federal Prisons. Her place of incarceration is unknown.
Hall also received three years of supervised release, with the first 90 days under home detention, was ordered to perform 250 hours of community service and pay back the money she took from her campaign.
According to the suggested sentencing guidelines, Hall could have been looking at between 21 and 27 months in prison, one to three years of supervised release, and a fine of between $6,000 and $60,000.
But because of the overwhelming support she received through letters to the courts, some of them from those Hall had defrauded, her upbringing, the circumstances involving the death of her mother and the crumbling of her marriage, her cooperation with federal authorities and because of her years of service to the community, Padron sought only probation.
"Prison is not where she needs to go. What she did was a public disgrace, and that's more than sufficient," Padron said.
Hall made a brief statement, accepting full responsibility for her actions.
"Nobody is harder on myself than me. I violated the trust of my supporters and thank them for their time and forgiveness," Hall said.
U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Michelland asked Judge Shelly Chapel to keep the sentence to within the guidelines, saying no public official should be above the law or receive special treatment.
"This was not a lapse of judgment. This came over a one-year period. Everyone makes mistakes, but this was intentional misconduct," Michelland said. "The public placed a trust in Hall and she betrayed it. Send a strong message to public officials they are not above the law."
Hall, 53, was convicted of wire fraud for embezzling and diverting $33,756 from her 2010 re-election campaign account to her personal one, using the donations to pay for shopping trips and her mortgage, according to court documents.
Capel said she "admired how Hall had fought and worked hard to become someone people can look up to," but that what she did while placed in a position of trust was out of character.
"You have spent much of your life working for the community. Please continue to do so," Chapel said.
Supporters were very disappointed by the ruling.
"I'm sad. She did a lot for the city of North Fort Myers for nine years. She helped put in the rec center and got the new library in the process of being built," said Greg Makepeace. "It's just a shame. I'm just miserable."