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Former Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary sentenced to prison for stealing COVID funds

ATLANTA (CW69 News at 10) -- Jason Lary, the former mayor of Stonecrest, is going to prison. On Wednesday, a judge sentenced him to serve more than four years after his conviction for fraud, conspiracy and theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars of the city's COVID relief funds.

Judge Thomas Thrash called Lary's actions deplorable, before sentencing him to serve 57 months behind bars, followed by three years of supervised release. Lary also has to pay nearly $120,000 in restitution.  Stonecrest neighbors say justice was served.

"I'm hopeful that community members will feel that the federal government took this injustice seriously," said Malaika Wells, the president of the Stonecrest Citizens Coalition.

Others, like Faye Coffield, argue Lary got a break from the court.

"I don't think he got enough time. I really don't, because other people who did this as individuals for themselves, they got more time," she said

Before the sentencing, family members and friends spoke on his behalf, all pleading for leniency by citing his community service, and no prior criminal history. In addition, they said he is battling prostate cancer.

Prosecuting Attorney Trevor Wilmot argued Lary was battling cancer when he committed fraud and said not sending him to jail would send the wrong message. Judge Thrash agreed and also denied Attorney Dwight Thomas's request to allow Lary to serve time at home.

"His family may have seen a different side, but that's not anything that we would have seen," Lowman said, citing several instances where residents said he abused their trust.

"There had been many indications in his past that indicated he was capable of this," Coffield said.

Others pointed out that if he was sick, that should have made him rethink anything he would have done wrong.

"I would think that a man who was suffering from a debilitating disease would also be a man of good moral character," said Stone.

In court, Lary apologized to his family and the citizens of Stonecrest, saying, "I still think I can get past this illness to contribute to my community and my race."

Residents said he has yet to apologize to the community outside of the courtroom setting.

"Until you apologize, you haven't taken responsibility, and we want this to be a message to everyone who lives in Stonecrest. Don't bring it here," said Stone.

They're also focusing on rebuilding the 95% Black city and the businesses that suffered as a result of what the judge and prosecutor called sophisticated schemes.

"We don't know how many of those people lost their businesses or face hardship because of what he did," said Coffield.

Lary didn't show much emotion during the sentencing until leaving the courtroom when he was seen comforting his wife. He is expected to begin serving his sentence on December 15, but health issues may cause a delay of that date.

City of Stonecrest officials did not respond to a request for a response to the sentencing. Thomas declined to comment on Lary's behalf, citing an ongoing federal investigation. Lary's family also did not speak to reporters following the hearing

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