Local News

Former Phipps Aides Sentenced

Posted March 3, 2004

— A day after former state Agriculture commissioner Meg Scott Phipps was sentenced to four years in a federal prison for her part in a campaign finance scandal, three former aides learned how much time they will spend behind bars.

Wednesday morning, Judge Malcolm Howard sentenced former assistant commissioner Bobby McLamb to 16 months in federal prison. McLamb pleaded guilty in March 2003 to fraud, conspiracy and exortion counts.

"[It's] Two months less than the government had recommended. We're grateful. Bobby McLamb is strong," said David Long, McLamb's attorney.

Former Phipps spokesman Mike Blanton, who pleaded in September to lying to a federal grand jury, was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

Former campaign treasurer Linda Saunders was sentenced to three months in prison, followed by nine months of home detention. Saunders pleaded guilty last year to six felony counts.

McLamb and Blanton were each fined $1,000. All three former aides were sentence to serve two years probation.

Saunders was given a lighter sentence in part due to health concerns and because she is a single parent.

"She was following her hero and got led down the primrose path," said Michael Grace, Saunders' attorney.

During the short hearing, McLamb and Blanton gave tearful apologies to the court. All three were immediately taken into custody.

The former aides pleaded guilty to federal charges for their part in the campaign finance scandal.

"If a signal can be sent today, it is cooperate fully with the government," U.S. attorney Frank Whitney said.

In October, Phipps was found guilty by a Wake County jury of lying under oath. It was the testimony of her former aides that helped prosecutors win a conviction.

The former aides cooperated with federal prosecutors hoping to get reduced sentences in exchange.

Phipps, who was found guilty of extortion, conspiracy and mail fraud, was sentenced to four years in federal prison and immediately taken into custody.

"She could've stopped, but she chose to go forward and continue taking bribes and continue covering up the bribes," assistant U.S. attorney Dennis Duffy said.

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