Waltz 'bagman' sentenced to 1 year, 1 day in prison

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Charles Love, an admitted "bag man" in the Tennessee Waltz political corruption cases, was sentenced Thursday to one year and a day in prison.

Love, a former lobbyist and member of the Hamilton County Board of Education for nine years, began cooperating with the government in 2005 before the investigation became public.       The sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Daniel Breen is well below the sentencing guidelines of 30 to 37 months for the offenses of extortion and theft of government funds with which Love was charged.

"We expected jail time," said Love's attorney, Bryan Hoss. "Any time you get a federal judge to sentence your client to less than the prosecution recommends you've got to be happy."

Love delined to talk to reporters. He told Breen he regretted his actions.

"I want to state my remorse," he said. "I want to apologize to the people of Hamilton County and the state of Tennessee."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim DiScenza told Breen that Love's cooperation was helpful to the government and began within two days of being told he was a target in the Tennessee Waltz investigation. The prosecutor recommended that Love get a reduction from the sentencing guidelines of 50 percent.

Love received $28,000 in payments from the bogus computer recycling company E-Cycle Management. He kept $12,700 and paid the rest to senator Ward Crutchfield, representative Chris Newton, and William Cotton.

Newton pleaded guilty in 2005. Crutchfield pleaded guilty in July. DiScenza said Love was prepared to testify against him.

Hoss said that Love has received anonymous death threats for his cooperation with the government. He told Breen that Love wore a wire 20-25 times during the course of the investigation at great personal cost.

"He has effectively been run out of the state," said Hoss.

Love was caught on tape in secret conversations with FBI agents posing as E-Cycle executives. On one tape, he said "everyone has their deal." But Hoss said Love had not taken money illegally prior to Tennessee Waltz.

"He embellished when he first met with E-Cycle about doing this before," Hoss said.

Love will remain free on bond. The prison where he will serve his time has not been decided, but Breen will recommend a site close to Chattanooga. In the federal system, a sentence of a year and a day is better for defendants than a year because they can earn "good" time that reduces their time served.

The Tennessee Waltz investigation has charged nine public officials, including five current or former state lawmakers, and the two political operatives. The sting used an FBI front company called E-Cycle Management that offered bribes for government favors.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)