SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -
Former Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Chief Willie Lovett has pleaded not guilty to a seven count indictment in federal court Thursday.
"We entered a plea of not guilty today, and we plan to prove that in a court of law. Thank you. That's all we have," said Lovett's defense attorney Dow Bonds.
Lovett was indicted for extortion, participating in an illegal gambling operation and conspiring to obstruct the enforcement of state criminal laws. The gambling charge is "aiding and abetting commercial gambling in violation of law."
Mayor Edna Jackson released this following statement:
"We have been informed of the indictment of our former police chief, Willie Lovett. This matter is being handled by the U.S. Attorney, and as such it would be inappropriate for me to offer comment. However, I do want to acknowledge the improvements implemented within the Police Department since last year.
Our City Manager and City Attorney have led a broad process that has resulted in overdue change. We are now focused on the future of the Department, including the selection of a new Chief and implementation of new programs to bring a higher level of professionalism to the department. They deserve your support moving forward."
Two other defendants, Randall Wayne Roach and Kenny Amos Blount, were also charged with running an illegal gambling business, and with conspiring with Lovett to obstruct the enforcement of Georgia gambling laws.
A fourth defendant, Randall Wayne Roach, Jr., was charged with participating in an illegal gambling business.
According to the allegations contained in the superseding indictment, since 2004, Roach, Blount, Roach, Jr. and others would operate an illegal gambling business in Savannah during holiday celebrations, such as St. Patrick's Day, and other events.
The illegal gambling business would operate in violation of Georgia gambling laws, but free from law enforcement intervention.
As a Major and then Chief of SCMPD, Lovett extorted cash payments from Roach and others. In return, Lovett provided protection to the illegal gambling business against enforcement of Georgia gambling laws.
The superseding indictment alleges that in 2013, Lovett received cash payments on five separate occasions in exchange for protection against the enforcement of the criminal gambling laws of the State of Georgia, which payments came from the proceeds of the illegal gambling business.
Roach, Roach, Jr., Blount and Lovett each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison, $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release on the commercial gambling charge. Lovett, Roach and Blount also face a maximum sentence of five years in prison, $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release on the conspiracy to obstruct the enforcement of state criminal laws charge.
Lovett faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release on each of the five extortion charges.
According to Steve Emmett, this was his initial appearance.
Gena Sullivan with the Chatham Sheriff's office said Lovett will not be housed at their jail.
Lovett retired in 2013 after allegations and a possible lawsuit surfaced about an affair with a fellow officer.
Story courtesy WTOC