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    Childers convicted of bribery

    ©Associated Press
    April 10, 2003

    CRESTVIEW -- Former Florida Senate President W.D. Childers was convicted Wednesday night of charges he bribed a fellow Escambia County commissioner in return for a favorable vote.

    Childers, 69, showed no emotion when the verdict was read. He faces 10 years in prison at sentencing May 16.

    Childers, who denied the accusations in court testimony, spent 30 years in the Senate until forced out by term limits in 2000, when he was elected to the county board.

    Childers was convicted of bribery and unlawful compensation for an official act. He was acquitted of money laundering. The six-member jury deliberated about 41/2 hours after taking the case late Wednesday afternoon. Childers had testified Tuesday that he never gave fellow Commissioner Willie Junior anything to vote for the county's $3.9-million purchase of a former soccer complex in Pensacola in 2001. Both are suspended.

    Childers disputed Junior's testimony that he gave him a cooking pot full of cash as a payoff. The Pensacola Republican said checks totaling $90,000 over about nine months were loans secured by Junior's equity in his funeral home.

    Childers claimed Junior begged him for a loan on May 31, 2001, months before the soccer complex deal was proposed.

    Junior testified he never intended to repay the loans and that Childers knew it.

    Junior testified as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors who have promised him a prison term of no more than 18 months. He also has pleaded no contest to 10 felonies including bribery and one misdemeanor.

    The trial was moved about 50 miles to Crestview because of extensive news coverage in Pensacola.

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