A former Chester Township police chief was sentenced to 9 to 23 months in jail Tuesday on charges stemming from his theft of an insurance check that he used for a down payment on a Cadillac Escalade.
Booker T. Wilson, 49, of Chester, was working part-time at a halfway house in Chester in 2007 when he took a check for more than $6,600 intended for a former resident, prosecutors said.
Wilson, who had been police chief in the Delaware County township since 2004, resigned this October when he pleaded guilty to forgery and receiving stolen property.
Wilson's attorney, John J. List, asked the judge for probation or home monitoring rather than jail time. He cited Wilson's more than two decades of police work and his "solid reputation in the community as an honest and hardworking person."
But Chester County Judge William P. Mahon argued that jail was appropriate given Wilson's position.
"He's a public official," Mahon said. "If a public official doesn't have respect for the law, how can anyone else? He took an oath to enforce the law."
The sentence Mahon imposed on Wilson reached the higher end of the standard guidelines for forgery. He also sentenced Wilson to five years of probation and ordered him to repay $6,657.26 in restitution.
Booker is set to report to Chester County jail Monday, List said.
Wilson has 10 days to file a motion asking the judge to reconsider his sentence, a measure List said he would discuss with his client.
"He spent 26 years in law enforcement and had an excellent reputation," List said. "His judgment in becoming involved in this situation has cost him dearly."
Wilson was charged in Chester County because that's where he bought the vehicle.
Soon after he was charged, Wilson reached out to the judge on the case, who happened to be his former boss. Magisterial District Judge James Charley is a former Chester Township police chief and he had hired Wilson as a police officer.
Charley told prosecutors that he received a phonecall at his home when he was setting his table for dinner.
"I recognized his voice right away," Charley told prosecutors, according to court records. Wilson asked Charley if he could meet him somewhere the following day. He talked about court records and the press.
"I said, 'We shouldn't be having this conversation,' " Charley told prosecutors. Charley told Wilson he was praying for him and hung up.
Charley disclosed the information before a hearing in 2008. He said he didn't want to shirk his responsibility and said he felt he could be fair, according to court records.
But after a conference in Charley's chambers, Charley decided to recuse himself.
"I guess I am now a witness," he said, according to court documents.
The state Attorney General's Office, which prosecuted the case against Wilson, agreed. But Mahon denied the prosecution's attempt to subpoena Charley as a witness.
Wilson pleaded guilty just before his trial was set to begin.