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Former Norfolk sheriff Bob McCabe was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison after his conviction last summer on nearly a dozen bribery and public corruption charges.
U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen issued the sentence at the end of a lengthy hearing in federal court attended by several friends and family members — and a few former colleagues — of McCabe’s.
“In the court’s opinion, you were guilty beyond all doubt,” Allen said to McCabe, calling his bribery scheme “sophisticated and very intricate.”
Allen disputed his claims that he’d simply made some mistakes.
“It’s not a mistake, it’s a crime — a 22-year crime.”
Before the sentence was issued, McCabe tearfully apologized to the court.
“I deeply regret, and I’m truly remorseful for, my misguided and reckless decisions,” he said. “I alone take sole responsibility for my selfish actions.”
McCabe’s was ordered into custody in August after a jury convicted him of all 11 charges he faced at the end of 3 ½-week trial. He was threatened on his first day at Western Tidewater Regional Jail in Suffolk, according to his attorney, and has been in solitary confinement in a Hanover County facility since for his own protection.
When the 63-year-old walked into the courtroom Friday, hunched over and pushing a wheeled walker in front of him, his wife of 20 years, Janet, began sobbing loudly. He appeared frail and much thinner than at his trial.
McCabe served as Norfolk’s sheriff from 1994 to 2017. He won by significant margins in each of his six elections, but came in a distant third when he ran for mayor in 2016. He was under federal investigation when he abruptly resigned in February 2017. He was indicted 2 ½ years later.
Testimony at his trial showed he accepted lavish gifts and thousands in cash from two businessmen who had longtime contracts with the city jail. In exchange, the vendors got inside information about the bidding process as well as contract extensions and enhancements that greatly benefited them.
One of them, Gerard “Jerry” Boyle, was sentenced in February to three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud. The other, John Appleton of ABL Management Inc., was granted immunity in exchange for his cooperation.
Federal prosecutors estimate the value of all the gifts, free catering, trips, campaign contributions and cash McCabe received over the years was at least $250,000, a figure that defense attorney James Broccoletti argued was exaggerated. Prosecutors asked that McCabe be sentenced to 20 years, while Broccoletti said five years would be sufficient.
The defense submitted 27 letters from McCabe’s friends, family members and former employees imploring the judge to consider a lesser sentence. Among the letter writers was former Norfolk City Councilman Randy Wright, who cited the many improvements McCabe made to the city jail during his tenure and his deteriorating health as reasons for less prison time. Wright was among the friends in attendance Friday.
Two character witnesses were called to testify on McCabe’s behalf: Angela Bennett, a lieutenant colonel with the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office, and Rev. Kevin Donlon, an Anglican assistant bishop and cousin of McCabe’s who grew up with him.
Bennett told the court about all McCabe did to improve conditions at the Norfolk jail during his more than two decades overseeing the facility and the many charitable things he did for the community.
“He was just a joy to work for,” Bennett said.
Donlon said that growing up, McCabe always had a strong desire to feel that he belonged, and he wanted to do good and please others. Donlon said he talks with his cousin weekly and has seen a noticeable change over the past several months. He said McCabe started becoming more aware of the mistakes he’d made and the poor judgment he’d shown before his trial, but it “really hit him” after he was convicted and jailed.
“This is not the same person,” Donlon said. “I believe he has had a rapid change of heart. I believe he is sincere.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Stoker pointed to two witnesses who testified during McCabe’s trial as examples of how the former sheriff’s selfish behavior had harmed others.
One was a sheriff’s deputy whom McCabe frequently asked to chauffer him and his friends to events in a borrowed limousine. The deputy rarely was paid for his service, which typically occurred on weekends and evenings, and even agreed to wear a chauffer’s hat at McCabe’s request.
The other person was McCabe’s secretary, who said she grew increasingly concerned — almost to the point of getting sick — when the sheriff pocketed money from a golf tournament that was supposed to go to charity and then repeatedly lied to her about donating it. The secretary’s name was on the paperwork and she said she feared she’d get in trouble.
And while Stoker agreed McCabe deserved credit for the good works he did, the prosecutor also argued he should be held to a higher standard because he was a law enforcement officer and an elected official.
“All of that (good work) is great, but all of that is tainted when he’s on the take,” Stoker said. “The message here has to be stern and unequivocal: when you take advantage of public trust you will be punished.”
Staff writer Ali Sullivan contributed to this report.
Jane Harper, firstname.lastname@example.org