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ORLANDO-W.D. Childers, once one of the most powerful legislators in Florida, is looking at hard jail time after being convicted by a six-member Escambia County jury of illegally discussing public business in private with Terry Smith, another commissioner.

The business involved $6.2 million in Pensacola area land deals being negotiated by Escambia County officials for public projects. Childers faces 60 days in jail and a $500 fine on the Sunshine law violation. He was acquitted on two other counts.

Okaloosa County Judge T. Patterson Maney will sentence Childers in mid-July. Smith has been suspended and will also be tried this fall on the Sunshine law violation.

But this is only the beginning of Childers’ troubles. He faces two more felony charge trials that carry heavier sentences. On those charges, Childers is accused of influencing other commissioners in the county’s $3.9 million purchase of a former soccer complex.

Childers denies the charges. On those counts, the 68-year-old politician faces a maximum 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Two other suspended commissioners, Mike Bass, a wealthy soft drink bottler, and Willie Junior, a funeral parlor operator, have been indicted on bribery and other felony charges. Junior has cut a deal with the State Attorney’s office for a maximum 18-month sentence in exchange for testifying against Childers.

None of the parties could be reached for comment at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline.

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