• Former Orange County commissioner talks with WFTV after her release from prison


    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Mildred Fernandez was caught up in a bribery scandal during her run for the Orange County mayor's office. She was arrested in April 2010 and later convicted.

    After 18 month in prison, she is now a free woman.

    On Tuesday, Fernandez sat down with Channel 9's Jorge Estevez. She called her time in prison "a journey."

    Fernandez said she went to jail to serve a purpose and said she enjoyed her time in the work-release program, working for the good will.

    She also explained why she decided to take a plea deal. Estevez asked Fernandez if she feels she committed a crime.

    "I think it is important for the community that I love to see me, that I am doing well," said Fernandez.

    From her lawyer's office, Fernandez looked much as she did before beginning her prison sentence. She told Estevez what was going through her mind as the judge handed down the sentence.

    "I felt at peace. And I felt that God was going to take my soul in a journey," said Fernandez.

    She continues to defend the actions that led to her felony conviction -- accepting campaign contributions in excess of $5,000. It was all caught on video during an undercover investigation.

    "I still believe deep in my heart that there was no crime," said Fernandez.

    The former commissioner said she took the plea deal to end her family's suffering. It also avoided a potentially longer sentence that could have been handed down by a jury.

    "We prayed for it. I asked the Lord to give me exactly what he thought was the best thing to do," said Fernandez.

    She told Estevez that she visited a spiritual leader before going to jail -- Pastor Charles Stanley, from Atlanta.

    "I wanted to hear from him the importance that when you go through a big tribulation like I went through, that God is with you," said Fernandez.

    Estevez asked what is for what's next for Fernandez.

    "Jorge, you ask me in this interview, 'Mildred, what are you going to do next?' And I am going to tell you I am still waiting what is my next step," said Fernandez.

    Fernandez said she plans to share her story and said she took notes throughout her time in prison.

    Fernandez spent 18 months of her 22-month sentence behind bars. She received some time off of her sentence for good behavior.

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    Former Orange County commissioner talks with WFTV after her release from prison