Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Former Shelby Commissioner Pleads Guilty

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In November, a federal grand jury charged Thompson, 48, an East Memphis Republican, with one count of extortion and three counts of mail fraud. According to the federal indictment, Thompson was a Shelby County Commissioner when he accepted more than $270,000 from H&M Company of Jackson, Tenn., in exchange for helping the builder obtain a $46.7 million construction contract with Memphis City Schools.

“In my role as a consultant, I falsely represented to Jim Campbell of H&M that I’d made commitments to give campaign contributions to members of the Memphis City School Board,” Thompson said in court. “Further, I falsely represented to Campbell that if these contributions were not made, they would be upset and it would be bad.”

“What happened to the money?” U.S. Dist. Judge Jon McCalla asked.

“I’m not sure what happened to all of it,” Thompson replied, indicating he personally received $2,000 from H&M’s minority partner.

Thompson allegedly extorted the money from H&M and its minority partner, Salton-Fox Construction Company, by claiming to be a political powerbroker capable of steering government contracts. In fact, according to the indictment, Thompson claimed he could control votes on the city school board.

To bolster his self-created reputation as a rainmaker, according to the indictment, Thompson "would falsely represent ... that he had made commitments to give campaign contributions to certain members of the Memphis City School Board, and that without payment of these contributions through him ... the ability of the joint venture to successfully obtain the contracts to build three schools ... would be in jeopardy.''