Phillips petitions for shorter sentence

Published 12:03 am Friday, April 8, 2011

A motion filed in Covington County Circuit Court this week on behalf of Sherrie Phillips argues that the former probate judge has been a model inmate who has been reformed and should therefore have her sentence reduced to time already served.

A Covington County jury convicted Phillips of theft by deception of $1.8 million and intentionally using her official position for unlawful personal gain for herself or a family member in late October of 2008. The state originally brought six counts of theft and ethics violations against her.

Judge Charles Price, presiding circuit judge of the Montgomery circuit, was appointed to hear Phillips’ case after local judges recused themselves. In November of 2008, Price sentenced Phillips to a 10-year split sentence with three years’ imprisonment. Because he issued a split sentence, Judge Price retained jurisdiction over the case and could enter an order to release Phillips before her three years are up.

Geneva attorney David Harrison, who also represented Phillips during her trial and appeals, asked that the court in his motion to execute the remainder of her sentence, stating that she “has given every indication of reformation and correction.”

“The plaintiff now has stability of mind and character, which she did not have at the time of her commission of the acts,” the motion states. “She has profited from the confinement and treatment, which she received. There is every reason to believe that given the opportunity to do so, she can rehabilitate herself and become a decent and useful member of society, and she has to large degree already done so.”

Harrison also argued in the motion that “given the overcrowded condition which exists in the Alabama Prison System, it is in the best interest of the state, the public and the petitioner … that she be released as soon as possible.”

The Alabama Attorney General’s office tried the case against Phillips. On Thursday afternoon, attorneys in that office had not received Phillips motion and had no comment on it. Assistant Attorney General Ben Baxley of the AG’s public corruption and white collar crimes unit argued the case.

While Phillips was sentenced in 2008, she was allowed to remain free on bond while she appealed her conviction. An appellate court upheld her conviction and the Alabama Supreme Court declined to review her case. She was incarcerated in October of 2009 and would serve until October of 2012 if she serves the full sentence. She is serving her time in a Montgomery work release facility, and gets frequent weekend passes.

Before issuing his sentence in 2008, Judge Price, who said he taught Phillips when she was a student at Jones Law School, said, “The problem that happened in this case was greed. Greed can overtake the strongest of individuals.”

He said he wasn’t interested in sentencing Phillips to the penitentiary “thinking I’m doing something great for the reduction of crime.” However, he said, he firmly believes that public officials “should be held to a higher standard.”