JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — Paul Winfield seemed like a man on the rise, a young attorney who unseated a two-term incumbent when he was elected in 2009 as mayor of Vicksburg, the site of a pivotal Civil War battle.
The Democrat said the people wanted change, and he was the man to give it to them. But before his first term was up, Winfield was arrested and indicted on a federal bribery charge.
By Jan. 6, he must report to prison to begin serving a sentence of just over two years for seeking a $10,000 bribe in exchange for a city contract.
His attorney, Terris Harris, had no comment when contacted by The Associated Press.
Winfield was arrested by the FBI at his house on Feb. 20. He pleaded guilty in September. U.S. District Judge David Bramlette in Natchez sentenced Winfield in November to 25 months in federal prison, to be followed by three years on supervised release. He was allowed to remain free on bond and self-report to prison.
Winfield had already been indicted by the time he came up for re-election and lost the Democratic primary in May.
As part of his plea agreement in the bribery case, he agreed to never again seek public office.
Court records say a confidential FBI informant called Winfield on July 17, 2012, to discuss “pre-event disaster contracts” with the city.
The two met at a Jackson restaurant the next day, and the informant asked Winfield what it would take to get the contract. “Winfield responded ‘Ten’ and held up 10 fingers, signifying $10,000,” according to a criminal complaint.
Prosecutors say Winfield agreed to take half the money up front and the rest after the contract was awarded. The informant paid Winfield $5,000 in $100 bills that had been provided by the FBI, according to court records.
In August 2012, Winfield called the informant and said he owed $4,300 in taxes and was “in a bind,” court records say. They later met in the parking lot of a McDonald’s in Natchez, where the source gave Winfield another $2,000 and promised to give him the remaining $3,000 when the contract was awarded, according to the complaint.