Coleman receives 20-year sentence

Published 12:01 am Saturday, November 17, 2007

NATCHEZ — Former Natchez-Adams School Board member James Coleman was sentenced to 20 years in jail for two counts of embezzling money from Mississippi River Corporation Friday Morning. According to Judge Forrest “Al” Johnson, Coleman will spend five years in jail with 15 years probation. Coleman was also ordered to pay $175,000 in restitution.

Johnson said it was one of the saddest cases he had seen in a long time.

“I believe you were blinded by greed,” Johnson said.

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Two of Coleman’s cohorts were also sentenced in Friday’s hearing.

Edwin Hardin and Gary Kingsberry were Coleman’s co-workers and helped him funnel stolen money through their accounts.

Coleman stole $605,000 from his former employer.

Kingsberry a convicted felon will serve three years in jail. And Hardin will serve one year in jail.

Johnson also said the way that Coleman stole the money was particularly disconcerting.

Coleman helped 16 of his co-workers to falsify their work hours so that they could be paid for hours they did not actually work.

In exchange the workers gave Coleman a percentage of the stolen money.

On Oct. 31 Coleman pleaded guilty to two counts of embezzlement after being indicted on 16 counts.

After his indictment, Coleman resigned from the Natchez-Adams School Board and the city’s civil service commission.

When Coleman was given a chance to address the court Friday, he said he was basically a good person.

“I have a weakness for the underdog,” he said.

Johnson asked if Coleman had been acting like Robin Hood.

“Kind of like that,” Coleman replied.

Coleman also said he enjoyed no personal gain from the money.

“I’m not a very extravagant person,” he said.

After the Johnson read his verdict the three men were immediately taken into custody.