By PAUL BASS
New Haven Independent
A family bail-bond dynasty may have ended as three members of the Jacobs family pleaded guilty Wednesday to bribing a top city cop. Defense attorney Willie Dow (pictured) predicted that it could cause a "disaster" for the court system if the Jacobses now lose their licenses.
Robert, Phil and Paul Jacobs took turns saying "guilty" just as the clock struck noon inside the Church Street courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Janet B. Arterton.
They admitted they paid bribes to former Lt. Billy White to track down clients who owed them money.
The pleas by the operators of New Haven's leading bail-bonds firm capped a two-and-a-half-hour proceeding that took place partly in private because of references to confidential informants in an ongoing federal probe of corruption in New Haven's recently disbanded, soon-to-be-reconstituted police narcotics unit.
Prosecutor Nora Dannehy portrayed Robert Jacobs, the white-haired 80-year-old family patriarch who has insured defendants' bonds for 50 years, as the ringleader of the operation, who personally arranged to pay the bribes to former Lt. Billy White. White pleaded guilty last week to accepting bribes and stealing suspected drug dealers' cash.
"I paid money to William White, a police officer in New Haven, to apprehend fugitives who were on bond to me or my sons, and I knew the payment was illegal," Robert Jacobs told Judge Arterton. "When somebody was missing who we were actively looking for, William White would ask if it was worth apprehending him."
Prosecutor Dannehy recommended that Robert Jacobs serve between 30 to 37 months in jail and pay a fine of up to $60,000. The government's recommended sentences for Paul and Phil Jacobs are for 18 to 24 months in jail and a $40,000 fine apiece. In addition, the three defendants will repay a combined $750,000 in forfeited funds under the agreement.
Arterton is scheduled to sentence them on Feb. 27.