ST. FRANCISVILLE — A former West Feliciana Parish police juror convicted of three counts of felony theft in 2012 pleaded no contest Thursday to a criminal conspiracy charge in the same theft case in which he was found guilty in May of diverting church money to his own use.
John Cobb, 55, pleaded no contest to one count of criminal conspiracy to commit felony theft and was sentenced by 20th Judicial District Judge William G. Carmichael to two years in prison. Carmichael suspended the sentence and ordered Cobb on supervised probation for three years.
A no-contest plea carries the same weight as a guilty plea in criminal court but cannot be used as an admission of guilt in any civil proceeding.
Cobb’s attorney, Robby Gill, said part of the reason Cobb pleaded no contest to the charge was to protect his wife, Carol Cobb, who was also charged with three counts of felony theft as well as criminal conspiracy to commit felony theft as part of the same case.
According to the plea agreement, all charges against Cobb’s wife were dropped as a result of John Cobb’s no contest plea.
West Feliciana Parish District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla declined to comment on Cobb’s plea or case.
Last year, Carmichael said Cobb was the leader in a scheme to take insurance money from a defunct Clinton nonprofit organization that was to go to another nonprofit, Cobb’s Union Bethel Family Church.
Cobb has appealed the 2012 conviction of three counts of felony theft and is awaiting a response from the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.
The judge sentenced Cobb earlier this year to three concurrent five-year prison terms, but suspended each of them and placed him on probation for five years.
Cobb, who served on the Police Jury for 24 years before his defeat in 2011, said Thursday he wanted to move on and do what’s best for his family.
Because Cobb has been convicted of a felony, he will no longer be able to run for political office or vote.
“I’m thru with that anyway,” Cobb said following Thursday’s court hearing.
“At the end of the day, all you have is your family. That’s all that is important,” Cobb said.
When sentenced earlier this year on the theft convictions, Carmichael ordered Cobb to reimburse an insurance company $15,000 for the amount Cobb was alleged to have skimmed from an $80,000 payment from Feliciana Enrichment Center in Clinton to Union Bethel Family Church.
The money was part of an insurance settlement after the center’s building burned to the ground in 2008.
Also in the theft case, the State Police and prosecutors alleged Cobb, through a series of transactions, also put $15,000 into the church’s bank account and split the remaining $50,000 between the center’s directors, the Rev. George Veal and former East Feliciana School Board member Oliver Wingfield.
Veal, Wingfield and three defendants pleaded guilty to felony theft and also received probation.
In addition to diverting the insurance money, Cobb was convicted of getting paid $5,120 from church funds in May 2009 for a steeple on the church’s new sanctuary, which was under construction at the time.
Assistant District Attorney Haley Green argued in Cobb’s trial that Cobb had the steeple built in 2010, shortly after he learned State Police detectives were investigating him.
Cobb also was convicted of taking $785 in church funds by cashing checks made out to a laborer and keeping the money himself.