published Friday, August 9th, 2013

Ex-Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long strikes out on second appeal

Former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long is led out of the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and Courthouse in this file photo.
Former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long is led out of the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and Courthouse in this file photo.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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The first appeal of former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long knocked three years off of his 14-year prison sentence on extortion, money laundering, drug and weapons charges.

The second appeal? Zero.

On Thursday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit released its decision on Long’s request for a further reduction in sentence.

No relief.

Barring a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Long will serve the more than 11-year sentence he’s on.

Long’s attorney, Jerry Summers, said Thursday he was disappointed in the decision but “that’s the way the law works. You win some; you lose some.”

Summers said his client can appeal to the high court but he hasn’t made that decision yet.

Long pleaded guilty in 2008 to 27 of 28 counts on an indictment involving extortion, money laundering, providing a firearm to a felon and possession of more than 5 kilograms of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Prosecutors allege that Long built an illegal campaign contribution scheme in which he extorted as much as $525,000 from local small-business owners.

When FBI agents learned of the scheme, they worked a reverse-sting operation from February 2007 to February 2008 before charging the then-sheriff.

It was the drug charge that hit Long with the most time — a mandatory minimum of 10 years, Summers said.

U.S. District Judge Harry S. “Sandy” Mattice sentenced Long to 14 years after his plea. Summers immediately appealed, and last year won a reduction to 11 years.

Summers again appealed to the court that the sentence should be reduced because his client had provided assistance to FBI agents and prosecutors on another corruption case.

But federal prosecutor Perry Piper disagreed, saying that the help was minimal and amounted to a misdemeanor state charge involving some marijuana and three prescription pills.

Summers claimed to the appeals court that by not allowing for the reduction, which could have meant a total sentence of five to six years, the prosecutor had violated his client’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

Piper cited Summers’ revelation of a cooperating witness, Eugene Overstreet, at a news conference during Long’s very public fall from grace.

Piper declined to comment on the appeal when reached Thursday.

Long faces a 2019 prison release date based on his time served and remaining sentence.

Contact staff writer Todd South at 423-757-6347 or tsouth@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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