(MOBILE, Ala.) A U.S. District Court found City of Bayou La Batre Grant Writer Janey Galbraith guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud, embezzlement and money laundering.
The decision was handed down by a jury Thursday morning. Officials estimate Galbraith will serve 12-18 month in prison, and could be responsible to pay fines. The federal judge hearing the case set Galbraith's sentencing for Sept. 14.
The charges, listed in a federal indictment that includes Bayou La Batre Mayor Stan Wright, stems from a land-swap deal after Hurricane Katrina, and misuse of benefits to disaster victims.
Assistant U.S. Attorney George May said, after months of investigating with several federal agencies, they got the results they wanted in Galbraith's trial.
"We are very pleased with the result of the verdict," May said. "We believe the citizens of Bayou La Batre have been vindicated by this verdict."
FBI Special Agent George Carr said the government's team of investigators owe it all to the city's residents.
"We realize what a tight-knit community Bayou La Batre is, and the difficulties associated with coming forward," Carr said. "Whether they testified or not, their information was extremely valuable to us, and we could not have put this case together without their help."
Janey Galbraith's Attorney Vince Kilborn said his client was disappointed with the decision, and was fully expecting exoneration.
"This is round one, and there are 14 more rounds to go," Kilborn said.
Kilborn said they will try to get the charges thrown out in post-trial motions, particularly one involving Mayor Stan Wright and an alleged land-swap deal.
"I think that's a weak count," Kilborn said, "and I have high hopes that it's going to go.
"I certainly think the district court made what it thought was the correct decisions, so we have no criticism."
Though federal prosecutors would not comment on how Galbraith's guilty verdict would affect Mayor Wright's upcoming trial, they said corruption will not go unpunished. Assistant U.S. Attorney George May said FEMA and HUD grants involved in the scandal were meant for those victims of Hurricane Katrina.
"The federal government will not tolerate profiteers off of that money, and using that money for their own benefit, and taking it away from the benefit of the victims," George May said.
Government prosecutors also commented about the judge's decision to dismiss charges against Mayor Wright's daughter Mary Wright-Cook.
"We were disappointed with the decision, but that was a decision that the judge had the right to make, and we respect the court's ruling," May said.
A date for the final trial in the Bayou La Batre corruption case, one for Mayor Stan Wright, has not yet been determined.