ST. FRANCISVILLE, Louisiana — A former West Feliciana Parish police juror has been fined and placed on probation for five years on theft counts related to the diversion of church money to his own use.
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/10ISfRu ) state District Judge William G. Carmichael sentenced John Cobb, 55, of Weyanoke, to three concurrent five-year prison terms, but suspended each and placed him on probation for five years. Under probation, he must pay $3,000 in fines and court costs and perform 180 days of community service.
"More should be expected of a leader in the community," Carmichael said at Thursday's sentencing hearing.
Jurors convicted Cobb of three counts of felony theft in October. He served as a police juror for 24 years before his defeat in 2011.
Carmichael said Cobb led a scheme to divert insurance money that was supposed to go to Cobb's Union Bethel Family Church.
"There are no grounds to excuse your conduct, and you have steadfastly refused to accept responsibility," Carmichael said.
The judge said the church advised that it is not seeking restitution from Cobb. However, Carmichael ordered Cobb to reimburse an insurance company $15,000 for the amount he allegedly skimmed from an $80,000 payment from Feliciana Enrichment Center in Clinton to Union Bethel Family Church. The money was part of an insurance settlement after the center's building burned to the ground in 2008.
Carmichael said he will consider District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla's request to have Cobb pay for the prosecution costs when D'Aquilla provides him with a financial statement.
State police and prosecutors allege that Cobb, through a series of transactions, also put $15,000 into the church's bank account and split the remaining $50,000 between the center's directors, the Rev. George Veal and former East Feliciana School Board member Oliver Wingfield.
Veal, Wingfield and three defendants pleaded guilty to felony theft and also received probation.
"Everybody makes mistakes, and I think he (Cobb) made mistakes in the accounting practices of the church," Cobb's attorney, Robbie Gill said. "I think Mr. Cobb is grateful that the judge gave him probation, based on his service to the community."
D'Aquilla, who declined comment on the sentence, announced in court that Cobb still faces three criminal conspiracy counts.
Cobb's wife, Carol, also faces trial this summer in the case.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com