Former State Sen. Kathryn Bowers was sentenced to one year and four months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Breen Thursday after pleading guilty this summer to one bribery count. Bowers admitted taking $11,500 in bribes during an undercover FBI sting operation named Tennessee Waltz.
In a closed conference at Breen’s bench during the afternoon hearing, Bowers’ attorneys argued in private that her medical problems should be considered and they pushed for probation. Defense attorney Bill Massey acknowledged the conference involved a discussion of her medical history but he wouldn’t provide specifics, saying Bowers is very sensitive about such disclosures. Federal prosecutors took no position on a possible sentence.
In sentencing Bowers, a political activist and elected official for more than 30 years in Memphis, Breen made no mention of her medical conditions as he spoke to a courtroom that included about two dozen family members and friends including State Reps. Larry Miller and G.A. Hardaway as well as former Criminal Court Clerk Minerva Johnican. He lauded Bowers for her political and civic involvement over the years. He also said the corruption sting that netted a dozen defendants, most state legislators, has represented “a difficult time for the citizens of Memphis and Shelby County.”
Breen could have sentenced Bowers to more than three years under federal sentencing guidelines. Massey said later that he was satisfied with the sentence.
Bowers had no comment as she left the Federal Building with her friends gathered around her. Some carried signs supporting her that also included images of Valentine’s Day hearts.
Some of those friends had hoped Breen would put Bowers on probation as he did in the case of another Tennessee Waltz defendant, former State Sen. Ward Crutchfield of Chattanooga. Breen sentenced Crutchfield to two years’ probation and specifically cited Crutchfield’s poor health as well as Breen’s belief that Crutchfield could not receive the kind of health monitoring he needed in federal prison.
“I want to apologize to my family and friends,” Bowers told Breen before he sentenced her. “If I had it to do again, I would not accept a penny.”
She also termed her acceptance of the money as “rash” and a “bad decision.”
Bowers will remain free on bond until the federal Bureau of Prisons assigns her a prison and a report date. She is expected to be allowed to report on her own by the date she is assigned.