- Associated Press - Thursday, October 1, 2015

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden sentenced former Harrison County Supervisor Kim Savant to five years in prison Thursday over bribes Savant took while a member of the Harrison County Utility Authority.

Ozerden handed down the maximum possible sentence, and also ordered Savant to pay a $20,000 fine and serve two years of supervised release after he gets out of prison. However, Ozerden found no restitution was due, despite a government request that Savant forfeit gains of $36,000 over two years, said Sheila Wilbanks, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Gregory Davis.

“This is a very serious offense involving a serious breach of public trust by a public official,” the Sun Herald (https://bit.ly/1QNMFn3) reported Ozerden as saying before sentencing Savant.

“This type of offense threatens the fabric of democracy,” the judge said, adding he wanted to deter others in addition to punishing Savant. “For the court to not treat it seriously would compound the damage.”

The 66-year-old Savant pleaded guilty in December to taking bribes of $1,500 a month from Pass Christian contractor Sean Anthony in exchange for voting to approve utility contracts with Anthony’s company. Anthony has also pleaded guilty to bribing Savant and the authority’s former executive director, Kamran Pahlavan. Anthony is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 2. Prosecutors dismissed charges against Pahlavan after his attorney said he was an FBI informant and immune from prosecution under his agreement with the government.

Anthony’s business had a $3.5 million operation contract with the authority that was canceled in January 2013 after the Sun Herald reported Anthony helped Pahlavan acquire a car.

Savant said he regretted his actions before sentencing.

“I’ve not had the chance to publicly apologize to the citizens of Harrison County and my friends for the very bad decisions I made,” he said.

Savant’s wife, Judy, and daughter wept in the front row as Ozerden pronounced the sentence.

John Rester, a member of the state port authority board, was among 15 of Savant’s friends at the hearing. Rester said he and Savant are in a prayer group together.

“My role here is to support him as a Christian brother,” Rester said, “and that’s about all we can do.”

Jim Walker, whose family’s Woolmarket property was improperly taken by the Utility Authority for a project, was also present.

“It was a good day for the good guys,” Walker said, “and a bad day for Kim Savant.”

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