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Former Dallas city manager Jerry Wyatt (far left) is taken into custody following a guilty plea in court on Wednesday to three counts of first-degree theft, a felony, one count of misdemeanor official misconduct, and one count of misdemeanor falsifying business records. Wyatt was sentenced to a 2 year prison term.
January 30, 2013
DALLAS -- Former Dallas city manager Jerry Wyatt hugged members of his family in Polk County Circuit Court Wednesday morning while a Polk County Sheriff's deputy waited.
The deputy was ready to place him in handcuffs and take him from the courtroom to prison after Wyatt was sentenced for stealing from the city and then trying to cover his tracks.
Wyatt pleaded guilty to five charges Wednesday morning: three counts of first-degree theft, one count of official misconduct, and one count of falsifying business records.
Per an agreement between Wyatt, the Polk County District Attorney's Office and the Office of the Oregon Attorney General, he will serve two years in prison.
As part of the agreement, Wyatt acknowledged responsibility for all thefts he was charged with, but only pleaded to five of them. The remaining charges were dismissed. The thefts amounted to more than $14,300.
Wyatt apologized in court, explaining he had "blurred the lines between my personal and professional life."
"However, it is necessary for people to understand that my thinking errors, weaknesses, faults and loss of perspective which led to my misconduct are my responsibility," Wyatt said in an apology letter to the city.
Judge Sally Avera said she did not see his actions as simply blurred lines between public and private life. She called Wyatt a "prototypical embezzler" -- one who was happy in his job, well compensated and respected, but still stole more than $14,000 from the city.
"Why did you spend the city's money like it was your own?," she asked Wyatt in court.
Wyatt said he couldn't offer an answer to her question.
"You've had months to think about it," she said in response.
Dallas Mayor Brian Dalton spoke in court before Avera sentenced Wyatt, saying the city had no involvement in negotiations and offered no recommendations to prosecutors for sentencing.
"Speaking as mayor, I am satisfied that the process has worked and that the proposed plea agreement and sentence are appropriate to the crimes that Mr. Wyatt committed," Dalton said.
After the hearing, Dalton said the process has been emotional for the city.
"We had great faith in Jerry and he let us down," he said.
Polk County District Attorney Aaron Felton agreed, saying Wyatt took advantage of the public trust.
"It is critical that public officials be held to the highest ethical standards," Felton said in a statement. "This has been an extremely difficult episode for the citizens of Dallas, but they can be very proud of the thorough and professional investigation done by the Dallas Police Department in this matter."
Before imposing the sentence, Avera said she hoped Wyatt had learned from the experience. She added he will need the support of friends and family as he serves his sentence and afterward, but pointed out that no matter how many people are on his side, the law judges everyone equally.
"It's not about who you are, it's about what you did," she said. "You are being sentenced for what you did."