MIAMI – Former Homestead mayor Steven Bateman began his 22-month prison sentence Tuesday, more than three years after he was convicted of felony illegal compensation.
"There was no intent," Bateman said through tears during his sentencing hearing in December 2014.
The Miami-Dade County case focused on his consultancy gig with Community Health of South Florida. Prosecutors referenced The Miami-Dade Ethics Commission's findings, which also linked Bateman and his wife to Dade Medical College.
In a November 2014 letter to the court, the mayor and city council members accused Bateman of a series of corrupt behaviors, including accepting gifts and services from lobbyists, such as free limousine rides. Bateman was also accused of regularly asking city employees for unethical favors, such as canceling an electric bill for a friend.
"If Steve is guilty of anything, it's not realizing the nuances of some of the laws," Bateman's friend Steven Garrison, a retired police officer and owner of a nursery in Homestead, told Local 10 News in 2014.
Bateman, 63, was forced to begin his prison sentence Tuesday after unsuccessfully appealing in an attempt to overturn his conviction.
"His legal position has always been that his 2 percent error rate was not the type of crime that the Florida Legislature intended to criminalize," Bateman's attorney said after his client was led away in handcuffs.
Bateman had served in Homestead for four years when Gov. Rick Scott decided to suspend him. He was elected in 2009 and re-elected in 2011.