by: Tom Regan Updated:
Kevin Kenerly, a former Gwinnett County commissioner charged with bribery in a county land deal, pleaded no contest in court Tuesday afternoon to state charges. Under a negotiated plea agreement with the district attorney, he received 10years’ probation and a $10,000 fine.
Both Kenerly and the district attorney said the declining health of Kenerly's wife played a motivating force in the agreement. She is terminally ill with stage four breast cancer. After the hearing in Gwinnett Superior Court, Kenerly maintained his innocence.
"We have a bigger battle to go through now. And that is her battle with breast cancer. As much as I want to fight, as much fight as I have got in me, I have got to put that toward my family," said Kenerly.
Prosecutors accused the veteran politician of accepting $1 million from a developer to help arrange the sale of the developer's land to the county for a park. Kenerly said he did not use his office to influence the deal and did nothing wrong.
In presenting the negotiated plea to a superior court judge, District Attorney Danny Porter cited complications that would arise involving care of Kenerly's children should his wife die and he is in prison. He also said it would a difficult case to prosecute. As part of the non-contest plea to the bribery charge, the district attorney agreed to drop two misdemeanor charges of failure to disclose a financial interest in two properties the county rezoned.
The district attorney dismissed Kenerly's claims to innocence and said in the end, the negotiated plea is good for the county.
"I think we resolved the case and took an albatross away from the neck of the county. There's going to be people who disagree with it, but given the condition of his wife and given the condition of the case, and everything else I had to take into account. What's the definition of compromise? Nobody's happy? That may be where we are," Porter said.
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