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Ex-Florida GOP chair sentenced for theft

Jim Greer pleaded guilty to stealing $125,000 in funds.

Jim Greer pleaded guilty to stealing $125,000 in funds.

ORLANDO, Fla. — The former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida was sentenced Wednesday to 1½ years in prison for stealing $125,000 in party funds, marking the fall of a man who once was one of the most powerful figures in the state.

Jim Greer, 50, was sentenced in an Orlando courtroom, more than a month after he pleaded guilty to four counts of theft and a single count of money laundering. The guilty pleas in February ended Greer’s trial before it started.

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Circuit Judge Marc Lubet handed down a sentence Wednesday that was less severe than the 3½ years in prison requested by prosecutors. Lubet explained that he handed down a more lenient sentence because Greer had already paid $65,000 in restitution to the Republican Party of Florida, and because Greer’s former right-hand man, Delmar Johnson, had committed the same crimes but had not been charged.

Johnson had been scheduled to be the state’s star witness and was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony. He did not return a phone call seeking comment on Wednesday.

‘‘I feel that this crime deserves prison,’’ Lubet told Greer. ‘‘You egregiously violated a position of trust.’’

After the hearing, Greer was led from the courtroom in handcuffs. His attorney, Damon Chase, said Greer had entered the guilty pleas to avoid the risk of a lengthy prison sentence.

‘‘Mr. Greer did fall on his sword for this one,’’ Chase said. ‘‘He did what he felt was best for his family. He feels good about it. Next year he will be spending time with his family, and everything will be fine.’’

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