"I stand before you today because I accepted tips that 95 percent of people in this country accept, from the President on down," said Smith, 45, of the city's Somerton section. "Even the mayor accepts campaign contributions."
Smith asked Tucker why his former supervisor and other Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections officials, who he said knew of and allowed the inspector to accept cash "tips" from plumbers, were not charged.
"I made the biggest mistake in my life going to L&I," he said.
"Perhaps more people should have been indicted; perhaps more people will be indicted," Tucker said. "That doesn't change your situation as you stand here before me."
In addition to the prison term - the lowest Tucker could impose under federal sentencing guidelines - Smith was also fined $6,000. As she has with the five already sentenced, Tucker also let Smith remain free on bail while he appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
The four-week trial of the eight former inspectors illustrated the difficulties in city officials' attempts during the late 1990s to impose ethical guidelines on municipal employees and to curb a plumbing-trades practice that trial witnesses said dated to the early 20th century.
City officials tried handing out ethics cards and issuing warnings; ultimately, top L&I officials and the city's Inspector General's Office agreed to let the FBI equip two city cars with concealed video cameras that recorded inspectors as they accepted plumbers' cash.
More than 40 plumbers testified, most reluctantly, that they paid $5 to $20 in cash to inspectors - all of whom were former plumbers - to ensure prompt inspections so they would not have to keep a crew waiting hours before completing a job.
Some plumbers said they did not feel pressured to pay, and the inspectors, including Smith, insisted they did not compromise their inspections.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy L. Kurland told the judge that in Smith's appearance on one videotape "he did not even get out of the car. He just put his hand out the window and took money."
Another of the eight former inspectors convicted at trial is to be sentenced by Tucker this morning and the last on June 5.
Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2658 or firstname.lastname@example.org.