Richard Kerr, the former Adelanto mayor who vowed to save his cash-strapped high desert city by embracing medical marijuana businesses, was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison Friday in connection with taking bribes from cannabis interests.

Imposing a sentence lighter than the 46-month term that federal prosecutors requested, U.S. District Judge John W. Holcomb in Santa Ana said he took took into account the 66-year-old defendant’s health, his service as a U.S. Marine, and his family obligations.

After 22 years as a Marine, Kerr won election in 2014 in the struggling 53-square-mile city, known for its prisons and immigration detention center. He promised that Adelanto, where 40% of residents lived in poverty, would one day be the “Silicon Valley of medical marijuana.”

Voters turned Kerr out of office in 2018, months after the FBI raided his home as part of a corruption probe. In 2021, he was charged with taking more than $57,000 in bribes and kickbacks while mayor in exchange for approving ordinances and securing permits for pot-related businesses.

In February, Kerr pleaded guilty to one count involving wire fraud. According to his plea agreement, the illicit payments from Kerr’s “co-schemers” — described as an attorney and various business people — were disguised as donations to a charity fund or to his election campaign.

In court papers, Kerr’s attorney described the case as a “complete embarrassment to Kerr,” adding: “While once well-renowned and respected in the community, he has brought his family name to shame.”

In letters to the judge pleading for leniency, Kerr’s family and supporters described him as a veteran who grew up poor, struggled with alcohol, suffers from emphysema, and supports five of his eight grandchildren. Kerr’s wife, Mistey Kerr, told the judge that while her husband was mayor he instituted movies in the park, organized a rodeo, and supported food and toy giveaways at Christmas.

Last year, a jury convicted Jermaine Wright, Adelanto’s former mayor pro tem, of taking a $10,000 bribe from an FBI agent posing as a pot entrepreneur. He was sentenced to a five-year prison term.

It was part of a wave of cannabis-related corruption prosecutions across the state.

California legalized recreational marijuana in 2016 with Proposition 64, but the ballot measure empowered local officials—often low-paid, part-time ones—to act as gatekeepers to the hypercompetitive industry.

Across the state, the “green rush” was accompanied by play-to-play schemes, with corruption cases seizing headlines in the rural north and in southern border towns, in urban centers and in desert communities.



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