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Bill Murray is escorted out of Supreme Court in St. John's in handcuffs after being sentenced on fraud-related charges. ((CBC))

The former civil servant at the heart of Newfoundland and Labrador's political spending scandal has been sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to repay $177,000.

Bill Murray "has breached a high level of trust in defrauding the people of Newfoundland and Labrador," Judge Robert Fowler said in handing down sentence in Supreme Court in St. John's on Monday afternoon.

Murray, former director of financial operations at the provincial legislature, had pleaded guilty in late January to fraud over $5,000 and three counts of accepting payments from politicians and a St. John's businessman.

"It was not done on impulse, and would have continued until the day he was caught," Fowler said. "The public feels very wounded by the breakdown in the trust relationship."

The sentence will be served at Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's, and Murray, 55, will be on probation for two years after the sentence is served. The judge also ordered him to write a letter of apology to be published in a newspaper and to seek gambling treatment.

Murray was effectively the caretaker of the legislature's finances, and as such is the central figure in the scandal that broke 3½ years ago. He allowed politicians to overspend money allocated for constituency services and then he fudged the numbers to hide it.

In court it was revealed that Murray received hundred of thousands of dollars in kickbacks, in a scandal that cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

After his guilty plea Jan. 26, Murray apologized for his crimes, said he was sorry to everybody he had hurt, and took full responsibility for his actions.

'I am truly sorry'

Murray again spoke to the court Monday, prior to the sentencing. "I accept my responsibility. I am truly sorry to my family and the people that I worked for."

He didn't speak to reporters after Fowler read his decision. Murray's son, Bill Murray Jr., yelled, "I love you Dad!" from the back of the room, as Murray was escorted out in handcuffs.

Murray had initially been charged with three other counts of fraud against the government, a charge formerly known as influence peddling, along with charges of fraud, breach of trust and uttering a forged document. The other charges were withdrawn after his guilty plea.

Fowler considered a joint sentencing recommendation from the Crown and Murray's lawyer. Both sides said Murray should go to federal prison for two years and pay $177,000 in restitution.

A statement of facts detailing Murray's crimes, including the revelation that he attempted to commit suicide in June 2006 after the scandal became public, was presented to the court.

The court document said Murray committed the crimes between April 1998 and March 2006. Murray was suspended as director of finance at the house of assembly in June 2006 when Auditor General John Noseworthy began releasing a series of explosive reports on spending at the legislature.

The auditor general's reports led to criminal charges against Murray and four former politicians — Progressive Conservative Ed Byrne, Liberals Wally Andersen and Jim Walsh, and New Democrat Randy Collins. They received sentences ranging from 15 months to two years.

The audits also prompted an overhaul of how the legislature is managed.