ATLANTA–Jason Lary, founding mayor of the City of Stonecrest, was sentenced in federal court on Wednesday, July 13, to serve four years and nine months in prison for COVID relief fraud charges.
Supporters who attended the hearing asked the judge for leniency in hopes that Lary’s declining health and positive contributions to them and the community might sway the judge to sentence him to serve at home. Their comments did not.
In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas W. Thrash, Jr. said he would not sentence Lary, 60, to serve his time at home as Lary and his attorney had requested. He said doing so would send the “wrong” message to the public. He said Lary betrayed the public’s trust as an elected official by stealing from the federal program.
“What he did was deplorable. Absolutely deplorable,” Judge Thrash said.
In addition to the nearly five years prison time, Judge Thrash ordered Lary to serve three years probation after his release and pay $119 607.69 in restitution.
The judge granted a request by Lary’s attorney, Dwight Thomas, to allow Lary to remain free until Dec. 15 in order to continue medical treatment for prostate cancer and lymphedema that Lary is now undergoing.
Judge Thrash recommended that Lary report to the Federal Medical Center in Butner, NC or the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, KY. The Federal Bureau of Prisons, however, will determine which facility Lary will serve his sentence.
Attorney Thomas told On Common Ground News this morning that he appreciated the “generosity” Judge Thrash demonstrated in sentencing Lary.
“He allowed him to remain free for medical treatment and I really thank him for that generosity. That kind of generosity is rare,” Thomas said.
Lary had pleaded guilty in January to theft of federal program funds, conspiracy and wire fraud.
Authorities seized most of the $900,000 Lary took from the $6.2 million the city received from the CARES Act. Authorities said, however, that Lary paid off outstanding tax liabilities and a lakeside house that he owned with some of the money.
On Wednesday at the courthouse, Lary told On Common Ground News as he waited with his wife and other family members to go inside the courtroom that the lymphedema had caused swelling in both of his legs and feet. He was wearing open toe medical boots and his legs were wrapped with elasticized bandages underneath his trousers. He was using a cane to walk.
Lary thanked supporters—about 15 people—who came to the hearing, getting up to shake their hands, fist bump and hug some of them. He smiled and made small talk as everyone waited to go into Courtroom 2108, which was on the 21st floor of the Richard B. Russell Federal Building. Lary was dressed in a black suit, white shirt and a striped black and white tie. No cameras or recording devices were allowed in the courtroom.
The hearing began at 10 a.m. and lasted until 1 p.m. with the judge calling for a 15-minute and a 10-minute break during the three hours. Much of the time was spent with Assistant U.S. District Attorney Trevor Wilmont and Lary’s attorney deliberating over the prison time that Lary should be given.
During the hearing, six people spoke about Lary’s character including two of his five siblings who attended the hearing. Jechell Lary-Waller was the first speaker. She shared how her brother was a creator and motivator who had a wealth of knowledge. As a nurse, she said that she was concerned that Lary might not fare well battling cancer in custody.
Lary’s youngest brother, Julious, also shared the positive impact that Lary had on him and their siblings growing up. He said Jason took him everywhere.
“He was the first in our family to graduate from college (Clark Atlanta University),” said Julious Lary, also recalling that his older brother lived in Los Angeles, CA and Tampa, FL and that he saw those places and more through his brother’s lens. He said he learned about manhood and devotion from Jason, who had one wife for life—Debbie, whom he met in college.
Others who spoke about Lary’s character included:
Attorney Thomas Kurrie, who helped Lary to set up the City of Stonecrest and served as City Attorney. Kurrie said he has had a decade-long friendship with Lary first meeting him when they sat down and talked about Lary’s vision to create the city of Stonecrest.
Christopher Colvin, a neighbor who said he has known Lary for 30 years, discussed the positive impact that Lary had on his two sons, who played for a basketball youth league team that Lary coached. Colvin’s youngest son went on to win three state championships with his team at Miller Grove High School in DeKalb County.
Ed Randolph, pastor of Union Missionary Baptist Church, said he has known Lary for 15 years. He praised Lary and his wife, Debbie, as servant leaders at their church, always willing to help. He said he ordained Lary as a deacon and he fulfilled all of the obligations in that role.
Darold Honore’, former mayor of Lithonia and now a member of the Lithonia City Council, shared how Lary revived the Lithonia Amphitheater by creating a concert series. Honore’ said he has known Lary for 18 years and respected him as a family man and devoted husband.
Lary was permitted to address the court after supporters spoke about his character. He apologized to his family, supporters and the City of Stonecrest, saying “…I let us down.”
Tears streamed down Lary’s wife’s face as the judge announced Lary’s sentence. When the court was dismissed, Lary and family members declined to speak with reporters. The family followed Attorney Thomas to an office in the building.