PANAMA CITY — Once almost within grasp of holding the office of top prosecutor over six local counties, Greg Wilson now is a convicted criminal.

However, Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet granted leniency against the one-time second-in-command of the State Attorney’s Office, because of his lack of a criminal record and standing in the community.

Wilson, 46, was sentenced Monday to three years of probation and ordered to write letters of apology as his punishment for felony possession of contraband in a detention facility and misdemeanor perjury in an unofficial proceeding.

He was found guilty as charged by a jury Sept. 19 for helping two inmates — sisters Clista Robbins and Christy White — pass a “kite,” or folded piece of paper, inside the jail. Wilson then lied to investigators about his role in the exchange.

After the verdict, the question remained whether Overstreet would honor the jury’s decision and adjudicate Wilson guilty of both crimes. But Overstreet did not, saying that in his more than 20 years on the bench he has always factored in the possibility crimes were simply a “colossally bad” decision made by a good person and whether the person had a criminal history.

“This court is profoundly disappointed in your behavior and the decision you’ve made after a career anyone would be proud of,” Overstreet told Wilson during his sentencing. “But you do fit in that category of people who made colossally bad decisions.”

Overstreet decided to withhold adjudication of guilt on the felony, pending the outcome of Wilson’s three years of probation, but adjudicated him guilty of the misdemeanor. That means Wilson can never get his case expunged and cannot possess firearms during his probation. However, the decision muddies whether Wilson — whose Florida Bar license is suspended — ever will be able to practice law again.

Prosecutor Jack Campbell, 2nd Circuit state attorney, called for the revocation of Wilson’s license, a felony conviction and 60 days of jail time in the case. He said he reviewed sentences from his circuit for contraband convictions and found that they ranged from 136 days in jail to five years in prison. Campbell further argued that despite Wilson’s lack of a criminal history, his experience as a law enforcement officer held him to a higher standard.

“Either the law applies to everyone or it applies to no one,” Campbell told the court. “If we’re not going to hold liable our peers and cohorts to the same standard as everyone else, we shouldn’t be in this line of work.”

Defense Attorney Lisa Anderson, who represented Wilson at trial, argued for the exact opposite. She said Wilson was unaware he was breaking the law when he helped the sisters pass a note and attempted to recant his denial of the activity immediately afterward. Anderson said that the combination of his lack of a criminal history and his civil service in a variety of different aspects demanded consideration.

“We only hear about the bad things and these two mistakes,” Anderson told the court. “He’s admitted to this court that this was a crime of dishonor he’ll have to live with the rest of his life. Going forward, we think his accomplishments in this community are exceptional.”

Overstreet seemed to split the difference.

Wilson started his career as a Panama City police officer and climbed the ranks of law enforcement to eventually reach a crescendo as the second-in-command at the SAO. He spent seven years in that role under State Attorney Glenn Hess until 2016 when he abruptly resigned from the office and challenged his former boss in a primary battle for top prosecutor over Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington counties.

Wilson said the decision came after Hess did not fulfill an agreement to bow out at the end of his second term and hand Wilson a shot at the office. Wilson lost to Hess by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin, but he vowed to make another run for state attorney in 2020 and turned to private legal practice in the meantime.

It was about a year later Wilson became the subject of a BCSO investigation at the Bay County Jail after officers stumbled across an Aug. 14, 2017, recorded jailhouse call they suspected involved controlled substances. In the call, Robbins told Wilson in vague terms that she thought something was in her car — “if it’s there, get it,” she said — and Wilson responded he would get rid of it. Because of the possession of prescription narcotics charges Robbins had been arrested on and the belief that she and Wilson had a romantic relationship, BCSO expanded its investigation.

It eventually led authorities to install video cameras — without audio capability — in an attorney interview room where they could video Wilson and the two sisters. In the video captured in September 2017, Wilson furtively accepts a folded note from Robbins during one meeting and then passes it to White in a different meeting. When questioned under oath about his actions, Wilson categorically denied the allegations as “absolutely false,” even reciting his rights to himself at one point, but at that time he was not aware of the video. He was arrested about three weeks later.

Hess recused himself and his office from the investigation because of ties with Wilson, and Campbell was appointed to prosecute the case.

Because BCSO officials consulted with Hess about the legality of the cameras in the confidential room, Wilson’s defense attorneys attempted to argue political retaliation played a factor in the decision. But Overstreet denied the request, saying the groundwork for a “selective prosecution” defense had not been established. Despite the court order against the argument, Wilson’s defense attorneys repeatedly called the case a “ruse” in closing arguments and attempted to show a law enforcement bias against him.

Overstreet also ordered Wilson to write two letters of apology while on probation. One will have to be addressed to Sheriff Tommy Ford and Maj. Rick Anglin, warden of the jail. And the other will go to The Florida Bar.