The first sentence in the Just for Feet fraud case was handed down on Thursday, with adidas America’s Timothy R. McCool receiving an eight-month sentence and a $10,000 fine. He pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to submit false statements to the auditors of Just For Feet, Inc. and to falsify the books and records of JFF.

The sentence was considered lenient due to McCool’s cooperation in the case against Just for Feet and its former management. McCool is expected to serve four months of the sentence in prison and four months in a non-custody manner, which could include home detention, depending on circumstances.

“Life is so fragile,” U.S. District Judge C. Lynwood Smith Jr. said to McCool as he handed down the sentence Thursday afternoon in Birmingham. “A single bad choice in a single moment can cause a life to turn irrevocably 180 degrees. I think that's where you find yourself.”

McCool faced a sentence in the range of 24 to 30 months, but prosecutors asked for a lower guideline level due to his cooperation. The new guidelines put him in a new range of eight to 14 months, with the prosecutors urging the minimum. McCool’s attorney asked the judge to reduce the sentencing another level, but Smith said he was bound by guidelines.

The case has so far snared four industry vendor executives and three former Just for Feet employees, including Don Ruttenberg the son of the failed retailer’s founder.

Ruttenberg entered a not guilty plea on March 16, after reaching an earlier plea deal. Adam Gilburne, the former president of Just for Feet, received a continuance in his sentencing that was originally scheduled for early January. Steven Davis the former VP of Marketing for JFF, has an arraignment and Change of Plea hearing scheduled for March 31. He originally pleaded guilty as well.

On the vendor side, Tom Shine, the former Logo Athletic president who has most recently been Reebok’s SVP for Sports & Entertainment Marketing, is scheduled for sentencing on June 26. Jon Epstein, the former Fila USA CEO, will face sentencing on May 21 and Steve Dodge, the former VP of Sales for the pre-bankruptcy Converse, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 18, 2004.

No doubt, the events of this week will get the attention of those that entered guilty pleas and those that are still being “interviewed” by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office. Perhaps we were all a bit naïve to think that this would be treated as an honest mistake and the authorities were only looking for people to help go after the insiders on this deal.

It’s a very unfortunate wake-up call.

>>> It’s ironic that today is also the day that final Going Out of Business signs are hoisted above the remaining 88 Just for Feet stores now owned by bankrupt Foostar, Inc. Good riddance to the whole lot…