Former Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty showed up for federal court in West Palm this morning dressed as a repentant sinner, in a white jacket and pearls. She choked back tears when she addressed the judge charged with sentencing her for violating public corruption law, telling him and the listening courtroom audience: "My carelessness and irresponsibility have humiliated and humbled me. I beg your forgiveness and the forgiveness of the community that I love."
Middlebrooks also remanded her immediately to jail, causing the reporters in the room to salivate over visions of the longtime politician cuffed and led off in disgrace. Instead, she was simply escorted out a back door of the courtroom, and the media were ordered out. "There she goes," one bystander observed.
In the subdued circus that followed, the entourage of McCarty supporters, opponents, and lawyers all stuffed into courtroom elevators with the reporters no one wanted to talk to. McCarty's lawyer, J. David Bogenschutz, told the TV cameras that he considered the sentence "a substantial break" from what she could have gotten, but she was obviously "not happy" with the immediate order to head to prison. She had been hoping to voluntarily surrender to a minimum-security prison such as the one where Martha Stewart served, putting her in a class with only the best celebrity crooks.
Watching the action outside the courthouse, Jupiter resident John Parsons was less-than-enthused. He had a yellow square with the number five pinned on his lapel, lobbying for McCarty to get the maximum punishment. "We were hoping to see justice done, but it was kinda half-justice," he said. "You get more than three-and-a-half years for stealing turtle eggs."