HATTIESBURG, Miss. - A Hattiesburg pastor, Kenneth Fairley was sentenced to 3 years in Federal Prison Monday.
Fairley was indicted early March and was found guilty in September on charges of conspiracy to commit theft of government money, and two counts of receiving, retaining, concealing or converting money that belonged to the government.
At the Federal Courthouse downtown, Judge Keith Starrett, the defense team, and prosecutors took 4 hours to review presentencing reports.
The sentence trial which was originally scheduled at 9:30 a.m. did not begin until 10:15 am due to the court running behind on other sentencing cases.
After hearing 5 character witnesses that spoke on behalf of Fairley's character, Judge Starrett said Fairley has 60 days to self-report to a federal prison and also ordered him to pay $30,000 in restitution. Starrett also recommended Fairley's last 6 months of his 3 year sentence to be served in a community corrections center.
Fairley said, "Well that God is just in charge, we believe they got it wrong, and we will take it from here on what will happen, we respect the process, but the process, is not over with and so we are praying, for our family."
"There are always two kinds of people, there are people who celebrate tragedies and people that pray, and we’re just hoping that people will understand and pray for our family" said Fairley.
Artie Fletcher, a co-conspirator in the case, stood in front of Judge Starrett at 8:30 a.m. for his sentence. Fletcher plead guilty to one count of misprision of felony in September and Judge Starrett sentenced him to 3 years probation.
Fletcher's attorney said he will pay $60,223.95 to the Housing Urban Development (HUD) by the end of this business week. They said he would pay the government money, which prosecutors say he and Fairley took illegally.
Part of Fairley's sentencing orders him to pay half of the stolen government funds. Fairley's attorney Bertram Marks said, “We believe that this was a mis-character of judgement and we are ready to keep moving forward, we will be re-appealing this ruling right away.”
Lead defense attorney, Arnold Spencer said, "We had a strategy all along, people will remember that there were a number of several different counts, originally 7 different counts, before trial we got 4 of them knocked out, we are looking to go to the 5th circuit and get the rest of them knocked out too.”
During the last hour of the sentence at around 3:30 p.m. Fairley's attorney's provided an emotional leniency speech citing his education and service to the community.
Both Marks and Spencer said they will continue to fight Fairley's conviction. “I think that the evidence is very clear and when a higher court reviews the evidence, pastor Fairley will be exonerated from here" said Marks.
He added,"But that is why we have a judicial process that we all respect because it doesn’t end in one phase, you get to continue, and we plan to fully and vigorously do that.”