PENSACOLA — Randall Holcombe, a confidant of former Okaloosa County Sheriff Charlie Morris who benefited from his bonus kickback scheme, was sentenced Thursday to 48 months in prison for racketeering and grand theft.
Escambia County Circuit Court Judge Linda Nobles handed down a sentence identical to the ones she crafted nearly two years ago for fellow defendants Mike Coup, Sandra Norris and David Yacks.
Coup, Morris’ chief deputy; Norris, his finance director; and Yacks, an assistant supervisor of information technology; were sentenced March 30, 2011, after they were found guilty of the same charges.
Morris is serving a 71-month federal sentence for fraud, theft and money laundering. Teresa Adams, his administrative director, has completed a 36-month federal sentence and is serving probation for state charges of racketeering and theft.
Nobles referred often to the “Coup group” during Holcombe’s sentencing hearing.
“I am aware that the Coup group got more money than Mr. Holcombe, but testimony indicated they were working their job and that Mr. Holcombe seemed to be spending a substantial amount of time at (estate) sales,” Nobles said. “I am going to impose the exact same sentence I imposed in those cases.”
Holcombe received more than $90,000 in bonuses from Morris and kicked backed $18,000, according to prosecutors.
Nobles asked prosecutor Russ Edgar to compare the aspects of his crimes to those of “the Coup group.”
Edgar said there were similarities, particularly in the huge sums of dollars employees received and kicked back to Morris. However, there also were differences.
He said Coup, Yacks and Norris were working when they received their bonuses, while Holcombe — Morris’ assistant director of administrative service — didn’t appear to do much work at all. Edgar also said Holcombe abused an inmate labor force by using prisoners to perform tasks outside of the legal scope of their duties.
Edgar said Holcombe was able to get away without working because he realized Morris was beholden to him as a stakeholder in the scheme.
“Morris felt threatened by the defendant. The defendant had it over on him and he didn’t ever have to come to work,” Edgar said.
Wanda Clapp, Holcombe’s attorney, argued for a probated sentence. She said Holcombe’s health is so bad and his medical bills so high that he would be a burden on the state as a prisoner. She estimated medical bills of $300,000.
Holcombe suffered a heart attack last June, which delayed his trial.
Clapp also argued that Holcombe’s many charitable contributions to the community and the need for restitution to county taxpayers outweighed the need for incarceration.
Lastly, she argued that Holcombe took the bonus money and kicked it back to Morris because he feared retribution if he did not.
Nobles sided with Edgar, saying that evidence indicated Holcombe, not Morris, held the upper hand in their relationship. She said she feared that if he was left free he would be susceptible to not paying restitution so he could pay his medical bills.
She said taxpayers have spoken loudly and clearly that they wanted those involved in the scandal to be punished.
“This is a breach of public trust. It’s not just about money, it’s about public integrity,” Edgar said as he left the courtroom Thursday. “He deserves a prison sentence for these crimes.”
Like Coup, Norris and Yacks, Holcombe was ordered to serve a six-year probation following his jail term and to pay restitution to the county. In his case, the restitution amounted to $82,548. His fine and court costs came to $94,666.06.
Also like “the Coup group,” Holcombe was allowed to remain free on bond while a promised appeal winds its way through the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee.
Coup, Yacks and Norris continue to await the results of their appeals.
Clapp said she believes her client has many good points to argue on appeal.
“When the ruling in the other appeals come down, it may have an impact on the appeal of this case,” she said.
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Tom McLaughlin at 850-315-4435 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomMnwfdn.