The former mistress of ex-Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros was sentenced to 3-1/2 years in prison Wednesday for lying to authorities about alleged hush money he paid her and concealing evidence.
In January, Linda Jones pleaded guilty to charges related to a 3-year-old investigation into whether Cisneros lied to the FBI about how much he paid her before his Cabinet nomination.
Jones, 48, agreed to the plea bargain just before her trial was to start. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bank fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice. If she had been convicted on all 28 counts, she could have been sentenced to eight years in prison.
In her first public statements about the investigation, Ms. Jones lamented outside court that she was going to jail for what she described as a victimless crime.
“My definition of a criminal is someone who committed a crime against society or against another person,” she said. “By no means do I think of myself as a criminal, that I ever have been or that I ever will be.”
Cisneros, who wasn’t named in this case, admitted when he was being considered for Clinton’s Cabinet that he had paid Jones after their affair ended in the late 1980s because he felt sorry for her after the affair became public.
But he faces charges in Washington that he concealed precisely how much he paid Jones. His trial is set for Nov. 4.
Prosecutors allege Cisneros paid Jones $185,000 over three years to silence her about their 2-1/2-year affair, which ended in 1989 and ultimately wrecked his political career. Cisneros was then mayor of San Antonio and Jones was a political fund-raiser who went by her married name, Medlar.
Jones, meanwhile, also is awaiting trial in Washington on charges of obstructing independent counsel David Barrett’s investigation of Cisneros.
Her plea agreement in the Lubbock case doesn’t commit her to testify against Cisneros in that case.
Under the plea bargain, Jones admitted misrepresenting phone recordings as originals, lying about whether she had opened a safety deposit box that held the tapes, and telling the FBI she hadn’t talked to a Cisneros associate when she had.
Cisneros eventually reconciled with his wife, Mary Alice, left the Cabinet in 1996 and currently runs the Spanish-language television network Univision. Jones is divorced.
Cisneros’ Washington attorney, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., declined to comment Wednesday. Barrett did not return a phone message.
Jones’ sister and brother-in-law, Patsy Jo and Allen Wooten, also pleaded guilty in January, to one count of conspiracy each. They have yet to be sentenced.
Charges against Jones and the Wootens stem from a deal in which the Wootens took out a mortgage in their names for a house actually intended for Jones.
Prosecutors said they planned to hide the real source of the down payment: $16,000 from Cisneros, which prosecutors say he sent while he was undergoing background checks for the HUD job.
Cisneros told the FBI he never gave Jones more than $10,000 in any one year.
After he stopped making payments following his first year as HUD secretary, she filed a breach of contract lawsuit, eventually settling for $49,000.