Rising-political-star-turned-convicted-felon Michael Brown was sentenced May 29 to 39 months in prison for accepting $55,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen seeking an inside track to government contracts.
Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, handed the sentence down to the former D.C. councilman.
The 49-year-old Brown pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge in June 2013, thereby avoiding the minimum 15-year sentence he would have received if he had been convicted by a jury. The terms of his plea agreement call for Brown to pay back the $35,000 in bribes he had already received. On leaving prison, Brown will be placed on two years of supervised release; during that time, Roberts ordered that he perform 200 hours of community service.
“Rather than wielding his political power to serve the citizens of the District of Columbia who voted for him, Michael Brown exerted his influence on behalf of purported contractors who were willing to line his pockets with hundred-dollar bills,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. in a statement. “Brown’s decision to auction off the public trust was especially disappointing because of his enormous potential to stand as a bright light for the residents of this city. His term of incarceration will hopefully serve as an admonition to other public officials who are considering betraying their oath of office for fast cash.”
As the AFRO previously reported, Brown admitted to meeting with the covert FBI agents several times over eight months. He accepted cash payments to help them secure Certified Business Enterprise status, which would have afforded them potentially lucrative opportunities. Brown also agreed to help the company secure government contracts. At the time, Brown was chairman of the council’s Committee on Economic Development and Housing.
Brown also confessed to two other schemes, including “concealing the true source of $20,000 that was secretly contributed” to his failed bid in 2007 for a seat on the District of Columbia Council and another $100,000-plus that was secretly contributed to his successful bid in 2008 for a seat on the Council. Under the plea agreement, Brown will not be criminally prosecuted for this conduct.
In a statement at his sentencing, Brown said, “My parents raised me much better than this, your honor.” He said. “I should have known better than to put myself in this situation.”
“In a shame to his oath of office and his duty to the District of Columbia, Mr. Brown took $55,000 in bribes and evaded campaign finance laws,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Valerie Parlave. “Today’s sentence demonstrates that no one is above the law. Together with our law enforcement partners, the FBI will continue to investigate public officials who abuse the public trust and use their office to commit illegal acts.”
Brown, son of the late Clinton cabinet member Ron Brown, was one of three former D.C. lawmakers to plead guilty to felony crimes committed while they were in office: Harry L. Thomas Jr., who represented Ward 5, admitted to federal theft and tax charges for stealing $350,000 from taxpayers; and Kwame R. Brown, the council’s former chairman, said he committed bank fraud and a campaign finance violation.
The taint cast on the Council has left a sour taste in the mouths of many District residents, particularly in light of the scandal shrouding Mayor Vincent Gray’s administration.
“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 D.C., in a June 2013 AFRO article. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s like a nightmare that you keep having.”