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Hooks Sr. Accepts Sentence, 'Did Wrong'

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In federal court Wednesday, Michael Hooks Sr., the former Shelby County commissioner, accepted a 26-month sentence of imprisonment for his role in the Tennessee Waltz scandal with the same apparently sincere attitude of contrition with which he had pleaded guilty back in August.

Balancing Hooks' acknowledgement of misdeeds with such other factors as the position he had held in government and the consequent effect of his example on the public, U.S. District Judge Daniel Breen prescribed a punishment that was well below the maximum possible under sentencing guidelines but not as lenient as Hooks and his attorney, Steve Farese, had hoped.

Declining to make excuses for having accepted $24,000 in bribes to advance the interests of E-Cycle, a fictitious computer recycling company operated by the FBI, Hooks said, “What I did was wrong.” He had been enticed to take the money by a longtime friend, undercover witness Tim Willis, but “nobody forced me,” Hooks said. “I should have said, ‘Tim, get the hell out of here.’”

Hooks said he did see a possible injustice in that he and other Tennessee Waltz offenders had to pay for their crimes while a "multiple offender" like Willis was receiving "$7700 a month" to enmesh them in the E-Cycle scheme. He continued to profess a belief in the innocence of his son Michael Hooks Jr., a former school board member who was also charged with accepting E-Cycle bribes and has yet to stand trial.

In court, the senior Hooks had expressed a concen that he had "ruined" the legacy of his distinguished family, one of whose members, his uncle, the Rev. Dr. Ben Hooks, former NAACP head and president of the National Civil Rights Museum, was present.

The Rev. Hooks said he had advised his nephew to make the plea he did: "If you're guilty say so and be done with it. If you're wrong, you've got to pay for it."

Michael Hooks Sr. will remain at liberty, under bond, pending receiving a reporting date to begin his sentence. Both he and Judge Breen alluded to medical conditions which Hooks might need time to attend to.

Upon completion of the sentence, Hooks will also be subject to two years of supervised release.

Jackson Baker

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