Former Covington mayoral candidate Bobby Sigman took a plea deal Thursday, receiving seven years probation and $2,000 in fines and surcharges as a result of felony charges stemming from his October 2011 arrest for allegedly paying a person to steal the campaign signs of his opponent.
Sigman will receive first offender treatment, because he has no previous felony convictions on his record. Sigman was originally charged with misdemeanor offenses, but the charges of making false statements, criminal trespass (two counts) and theft by taking (two counts) were changed to felonies in May as a result of the investigation.
Under the Georgia First Offender Act, a judge allows the defendant to serve his punishment, and once that is completed, the defendant is deemed to have no criminal conviction. A person can only use first offender treatment once.
The sign-stealing scandal was one of the major stories of 2011.
Sigman originally denied paying anyone to steal the campaign signs of opponent Ronnie Johnston, who went on win the Covington mayor's race.
Shortly after Sigman's denial, the Covington Police Department released the video of a sting operation it had undertaken.
The video apparently showed several actions taken by Sigman, including: greeting the man who had allegedly stolen the campaign signs of Ronnie Johnston and letting the man into his car; the two men talking about picking up signs that are still standing; Sigman and the man picking up a stack of Johnston signs that had been left in a field; Sigman telling the man not to get caught and that if he does get caught not mention Sigman; and Sigman handing the man a $50 bill.
After seeing the video, Sigman said he was dropping out of the race.
"I'm sorry for what has happened. I used bad judgment and I realized I did. I got caught up in this thing and couldn't get out of it. I couldn't get out of the trap," Sigman said in October 2011. "We're just going to let everything else go through the judicial system and my attorney will be handling all of that. As far as I'm concerned, it's over...I'll be trying to remove all the signs I can, trying to clean up the city."
However, Sigman changed his mind only days after and announced he was staying in the race.
"When I thought it was best for me to withdraw, my supporters came forward in huge numbers to convince me to remain in the race," he said in a typed letter.
In the November election, Johnston won handily, capturing 1,032 votes, (77.3 percent), while Sigman collected 282.
After the race, Sigman said he cost himself the election.
"The publicity I received, it was just bad and that turned a lot of people off. It cost the election. I realize that. A stupid mistake I made. That's it. I just beat myself. I don't blame no one but myself," Sigman said election night. "I'm the one that's responsible, and I'm willing to step up to the plate and take that responsibility."
He said at the time he did not plan to run again.
"I'll be 71 years old in a little while, and I think its time to let the young boys take over and run the city and county," Sigman said.