Violations of California and federal ethics laws are punishable by a variety of civil, criminal and administrative penalties, depending on the severity of the violation and the degree of intent to violate the law that enforcement entities are able to demonstrate.
A city treasurer was indicted on 39 counts of money laundering, bribery, wire fraud and public corruption, alleging that he used his elected office and political influence to funnel money from city projects to family and friends between 1998 and 2003. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $639,000 in restitution.
In April of 2009, a southern California sheriff beat a number of federal corruption charges, only to find himself still being treated harshly by the court on the one lone witness tampering conviction. He was sentenced to 66 months in prison and ordered to pay a $125,000 fine within a year. The judge said he gave the sentence to promote respect for the law, to be deterrence to others and to establish a just punishment.
In 2006, a prominent southern California mayor was sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison and ordered to pay over three-quarters of a million dollars in restitution. The mayor was convicted of some 20 public corruption-related charges.
In this 2008 interview (which follows a commercial), former Senator John Edwards explains that his success as a public official contributed to an “egotism” that led him to believe that there would be no consequences for his actions. He admits that “nothing could be further from the truth.”