Scranton, Lackawanna County - A former state worker from Scranton is going to prison in connection with a corruption investigation.
James McDonnell was sentenced Wednesday afternoon for taking bribes and kickbacks from businesses that he was supposed to be helping.
The judge had harsh words for McDonnell. The judge said McDonnell used his high government position as a way to extort people and said he had the "little guy by the throat."
McDonnell was sentenced to between one and a-half and three years in prison.
"Anytime a public employee decides to try to extort people for -- for really just doing what the law requires them to do -- it's shocking," Senior Deputy Attorney General Ken Brown said.
McDonnell used to work out of the Scranton State Office Building on Lackawanna Avenue.
He was a supervisor with the state worker's insurance fund.
McDonnell admitted to taking more than $80,000 in kickbacks from businesses in exchange for helping them get lower insurance premiums.
For many, the shocking thing is that the crimes happened from 1999 to 2011.
"Eleven years of kickbacks? Don't you think he should get 11 years to equal it out," Adam Bisignani of Scranton said. "
McDonnell's wife Michelle was originally charged in the investigation.
Prosecutors said many of the businesses put her on their payroll as a "ghost employee" but she didn't really do any work.
As a result of her husband's plea and sentence, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office has dropped the charges against her.
"One of the problems here, in public corruption cases, is it tarnishes pepole in state government and hopefully this conviction and this sentence will start to repair that reputation," Brown said.
In court, James McDonnell apologzied for what he did, saying what he did was wrong.
Besides prison, McDonnell was also sentenced to two and a-half years probation and to pay more than $366,000 in restitution.