Former Memphis City Councilman Rickey Peete, who pleaded guilty to accepting $14,500 in bribes while in office in 2006, was sentenced to 51 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Samuel Mays.
That was the upper end of the 41-51 month sentencing range in the guidelines, and Mays said he was influenced by "the serious and repetitive nature of this offense." Peete, 52, was convicted of bribery in 1989 when he was a first-term councilman.
"Honest representation is the basis of a free society," said Mays, who told Peete he found it "really painful" to have to send him to prison. "I don't sentence many evil people," said Mays. "I sentence good people who do stupid and illegal things."
Peete, a Morehouse College graduate with a master's degree, was reelected to the council in 1995 after serving 30 months in prison. He was a Memphis school board member before going on the council.
Choking up at times, Peete spoke on his own behalf.
"I am humiliated, remorseful, and ashamed of my actions which have brought me to this time and place," he said.
He apologized to his family, friends, constituents, and fellow citizens.
"I accept responsibility for my error in judgment," he said.
Peete took $14,500 from lobbyist Joe Cooper for his support on a billboard issue. Cooper was working undercover and Peete was taped and recorded. His deception and willingness to take multiple bribes worked against him and showed that he had not learned his lesson from his previous conviction, said assistant U.S. Attorney Vivian Donelson. She said Peete was more concerned about getting caught than serving his constituents honorably.
Three people spoke on Peete's behalf: Alma Morris, Rev. Melvin Wade, and Virginia Anderson. They said Peete was especially helpful to children and senior citizens in his council super-district.
"We need him back in the community," said Anderson.
Under council rules, Peete cannot run again. No date was set for him to report to prison. He will be in minimum security and will be as close to Memphis as possible.