Lee Zurik Investigation: Hingle pleads guilty

New Orleans -- Former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday.

Shortly after entering the federal courthouse, Hingle apologized to U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.

"I think he found himself on the other side of the equation from us," Letten said. "I think he violated our expectations and trust."

Hingle awaits his federal sentence from Judge Sarah Vance.

Wednesday he pleaded guilty to falsely reporting $150,000 in campaign expenditures and taking $20,000 in kickbacks from vendor Aaron Bennett.

"I don't know that there is a public sector immune from corruption," FBI Special Agent in Charge David Welker said. "It's a sad day in the law enforcement community. Someone who should be enforcing the law is breaking the law."

The FBI worked quickly and eventually got Hingle to cooperate and plead guilty. As he left federal court, the 20-year sheriff said nothing.

"He came to grips with this early on," Hingle's attorney Frank Desalvo said. "He is sorry it happened. He knows this is more than likely going to define his life. He hopes the people of Plaquemines Parish will remember the good as well."

In court Thursday, Judge Vance would not accept Hingle's plea agreement. She wanted to review it.

Letten and Desalvo downplayed that, but it does raise the question of whether Judge Vance feels the plea agreement for Hingle was strong enough.

We'll find out on March 7, 2012 when Judge Vance sentences the former sheriff.