Bill Weimar, who built a lucrative business in Alaska working with criminals, was sentenced to federal prison Wednesday as a convicted felon.
Weimar, 68, tall and silver-haired, his voice faltering at times, stood before a federal judge and said he did wrong. He has admitted funneling $20,000 in 2004 to help a state legislative candidate, knowing that if elected the candidate would support his interest in building a private prison.
"This is my fault. I did this. Nobody made me do it. I had the means to do it. I went ... and got the cash. I sent it through the mails," Weimar told U.S. District John Sedwick. "I committed a crime."
In August, Weimar pleaded guilty to two felonies: conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and a charge called "structuring financial transactions" for dividing the money into smaller payments, to avoid U.S. Treasury reporting requirements.
On Wednesday, the judge ordered Weimar to serve six months in federal prison, then another six months on home detention while on supervised probation. He also must pay a sizable fine of $75,000, which is more than either the prosecution or the federal probation office recommended and goes above what federal guidelines call for.
"It was the kind of offense that does great damage to our community because ... it allows for the corruption of a public process that we all really depend upon," Sedwick said.
Weimar started and owned Allvest Inc., which operated the state's only chain of private halfway houses, provided drug treatment, and ran other services including animal control. In 1998, he sold five halfway houses to Cornell Corrections Inc. and the next year, retired to Montana. In all, he lived 30 years in Alaska.
Weimar quickly admitted his guilt and cooperated with the investigation, defense lawyer David Bukey of Seattle noted to the judge.
He told investigators what he knew about the candidate and the candidate's political consultant, and provided follow-up documents when requested by the FBI, Bukey said.
But assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Bottini stressed that Weimar - while providing a fascinating historical perspective - hasn't really helped the on-going federal investigation into Alaska political corruption.
"While he did provide a substantial amount of information, the bottom line was it didn't advance the ball one inch for the government, and that's just the hard reality of it," Bottini said.
Another cooperating defendant, former lobbyist Bill Bobrick, testified against former state Rep.Tom Anderson in a trial last year. Anderson was convicted of seven felonies including bribery and money laundering after being caught on secretly made recordings agreeing to do Cornell's bidding and accepting payments he thought came from the company, but actually were from the FBI. Cornell was unaware of the scheme.
"We're not even in the same league as far as Mr. Weimar's effort to cooperate," Bottini said.