Michael Hooks, Sr. resigned his post as Shelby County Commissioner effective 12:01 a.m. today, then walked into a court room and pleaded guilty to accepting $24,000 in bribes from FBI agents as part of the Tennessee Waltz sting. Said Hooks:

I have nobody to blame but me. I don’t blame the sting operation, I don’t blame the set-up, I blame Commissioner Hooks. And for that, I will pay for it the rest of my life.

But Hooks Sr. only pled guilty to one count of the two counts in the federal indictment:

The extortion and bribery charges in Hooks’ indictment carried a maximum punishment of 30 years in prison and $500,000 in fines, but his plea deal with prosecutors should result in much lighter punishment.

Indeed, the charge to which he pled guilty carries a maximum of ten years in prison, but I’m betting he gets off with less.

So that “pay for the rest of my life” pill should be a little easier to swallow.

Not only does Mikey get off easy, but he gets to stay on the state pension plan. 55-year-old Hooks is eligible for $1,426 a month for life if he takes early retirement. That’ll buy a lot of cigarettes in jail. Why so much? Because the Hooks are a sly breed:

If Hooks collects the pension, it will amount to about $17,000 a year, more than half of his current pay as a commissioner.

Hooks’ pension would be considerably higher than most commissioners because he served as the county’s elected assessor, earning $74,222 a year over his highest-paid 36 months. If Hooks had resigned from the commission when he was indicted last August, his monthly pension would have been about half of the $1,426.

However, he stayed in office past his 55th birthday on Oct. 13 and qualified for the full amount.

And now that “pay for the rest of my life” pill becomes insignificant. He gets out of jail early and lives on taxpayer money for the rest of his life. My friends, it is we who will pay for the rest of his life!

The one open question at this point is why federal prosecutors let him off so easy. Perhaps because he has agreed to testify against others in the string of prosecutions? There are still four others yet to be prosecuted as a result of the Waltz, two of the legislators.

One is John Ford, whose trial has conveniently been set to begin after the November elections so as not to taint Harold Ford Jr’s chances of securing a US Senate seat (don’t want the Ford family stink to get in the way). The other is state Senator Kathryn Bowers who will attend a plea hearing later today.

And of course, there’s Michael Hooks, Jr., who is also waiting prosecution. What are the chances daddy will testify against his son?

As one of those “what a coincidence” happenings in the world, blogging journalist Cameron Harper was called up for jury duty last week. The reason: he was part of a special pool of potential jurors for the Michael Hooks, Sr. trial. As if he would ever get chosen!