Holcombe found guilty in bonus kickback scheme

Randall Holcombe

Randall Holcombe listens to a previous interview between him and investigators during his racketeering trial in Pensacola on Wednesday. Holcombe is accused of participating in former Okaloosa County Sheriff Charlie Morris’ bonus kickback scheme.

DEVON RAVINE | Northwest Florida Daily News
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 22:22 PM.

PENSACOLA — Randall Holcombe, assistant director of administrative service for corrupt former Okaloosa County Sheriff Charlie Morris, was found guilty Thursday of racketeering and grand theft.
A jury of three men and three women deliberated for less than an hour before announcing at 6:42 p.m. that they had reached a verdict.
“I commend the jury for their service. I’m pleased with the decision,” Assistant State Attorney Russ Edgar, who prosecuted the four-day trial. “Hopefully, we can turn the page on this chapter and the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office can get back to the business of serving the public.”
Edgar closed his case by telling jurors he had provided sufficient evidence to prove that Holcombe had been a willing participant in the bonus kickback scheme that had gotten Morris and his administrative assistant, Teresa Adams, sent to federal prison for fraud, theft and money laundering.
He urged jurors not to buy defense attorney Wanda Clapp’s claims that Holcombe was generous to a fault and was deceived and intimidated by a powerful constitutional officer who claimed the thousands of dollar he sought back from Holcombe would be used for charitable purposes.
“The defendant isn’t here because he trusted Charlie Morris. He’s here because he’s dishonest,” Edgar said. “He’s not here because he couldn’t say no. He’s here because he wouldn’t.”
Edgar presented evidence during trial to bolster his argument that Holcombe had returned tens of thousands of dollars to Morris from bonuses through which he also profited handsomely. He also argued that Holcombe did little work at the Sheriff’s Office, instead spending time helping Morris’ wife, Barbara Morris, with her estate sale business and illegally using inmates to help her clean up after the sales.
Escambia County Circuit Court Judge Linda Nobles will meet Nov. 28 with Edgar and Clapp to discuss a sentencing date.
Holcombe faces a 34-month minimum sentence. Clapp said she will seek a new trial and appeal the case if the request isn’t granted.
“We’re disappointed,” she said after the verdict was read. “But we believe we have a lot of good issues to argue on appeal,” she said after the verdict was read.
Among the issues of contention, Clapp said, is the question of who was present during FBI interviews of men who later became witnesses for the prosecution in the Holcombe case. There was possibly conflicting
evidence about what now-Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley’s role might have been in the FBI interview process, she said.
Holcombe’s conviction closes the law and order chapter of a scandal that erupted Feb. 27, 2009 when Morris was arrested by federal agents in Las Vegas. Adams was arrested the same day in Okaloosa County. They later pleaded guilty to federal charges of fraud, theft and money laundering.
A state investigation later led to the arrests of Morris’ Chief of Staff Sabra Thornton, Chief Deputy Michael Coup, Finance Director Sandra Norris and David Yacks, an assistant supervisor of information technology.
Holcombe was arrested Nov. 18, 2010, after Morris and Adams pleaded to no contest to additional state charges and Thornton, Coup, Norris and Yacks had been convicted of state crimes.
Thornton’s grand theft conviction was overturned on appeal.
Coup, Norris and Yacks remain free while their four-year sentences for racketeering and theft make their way through the appeals process.
State Attorney Bill Eddins said Thursday that the state hopes to hold sentencing hearings for Morris and Adams next week.
The state had accused Holcombe of receiving eight bonuses from Morris from which he kicked back funds.
On the stand, Holcombe denied returning money to the sheriff on five of those occasions. He said he liked to have cash on hand, and so a couple of times when he received bonuses he made large cash withdrawals. He produced records to show that soon after receiving a $5,000 bonus, he bought a storage trailer for that amount.
One other time, he testified that he gave a big chunk of his bonus to the family of Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Jones, who was dying of cancer, and on another occasion he helped another employee with a charitable donation.
In his aggressive cross examination, and later in closing arguments, Edgar pointed out that bank records indicated that at the same time Holcombe was withdrawing bonus money, other Sheriff’s Office employees
tied to the kickback bonus scandal were also withdrawing cash.
“Multiple persons were getting money and returning aggregate amounts which coincided with trips to Las Vegas or lavish spending,” he said.

Contact Daily News Staff Writer Tom McLaughlin at 850-315-4435 or tmclaughlin@nwfdailynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMnwfdn.



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