Michael A. Brown, a former member of the D.C. Council who was once a rising star in local politics, pleaded guilty to accepting $55,000 from FBI agents posing as business owners seeking a government contracting advantage, authorities said.
The plea allows Brown, son of the late Clinton cabinet member Ron Brown, to avoid the minimum 15-year sentence he would have received if convicted. The plea deal dictates that he spend three years in prison and three years of supervised probation upon his release. He would also pay back the $35,000 he received in bribes, according to a statement from prosecutors in the case.
Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 3, 2013 by Judge Robert L. Wilkins of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
According to the statement, Brown, 48, met with the undercover FBI agents several times over eight months. They told Brown they wanted to become a Certified Business Enterprise, which would have afforded their business potential advantages. A source familiar with the CBE application process said other council members have sought to expedite CBE applications, but that Brown’s behavior became criminal when he took money in exchange for his assistance.
The statement also said Brown “admitted to concealing the true source of $20,000 that was secretly contributed” to his failed council bid in 2007, though he will not be prosecuted for that offense under the conditions of his plea arrangement.
Brown made no statements as he left court on June 10. He held his head high as he walked out of the courthouse and was driven away.
But news that he had agreed to plead guilty hit many D.C. residents like a hard punch. His plea was the third one from a member of the D.C. Council—Brown was not sitting at the time of his plea—in the past 18 months. All three pleaded guilty to felony offenses committed while they held office: Harry L. Thomas Jr. for federal theft and tax charges for stealing more than $350,000 from taxpayers and Kwame R. Brown, no relation to Michael Brown, for bank fraud and a campaign finance violation.
“You just start to think nobody is honest, that no politician is in it for anything other than the money,” said T.R. Johnson of Southeast. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s like a nightmare that you keep having.”
The bribes were paid to Brown by the agents in $100 bills in five meetings at locations in Washington and he was videotaped accepting money, officials said.
The events occurred while Brown chaired the council’s Committee on Economic Development and Housing. He served on the council from January 2009 through January, when he left office after being defeated. He was campaigning for an open at-large council seat this spring until he quit the race on April 2, three weeks before the special election to fill the seat.