Brown resigns as D.C. Council chairman

Federal indictment charges him with felony bank fraud

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D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown resigned Wednesday after federal prosecutors accused him of lying on a loan application — a historic blow to a city government that has suffered unprecedented legal woes and eroded the public’s trust.

Documents filed Wednesday in federal court charged Mr. Brown with one count of felony bank fraud.

The charge should bring closure to one of three federal probes that have plagued city hall for more than a year, even as it puts a serious wrinkle into the future of the D.C. Council.

Mr. Brown, a Democrat, has faced questions about his 2008 campaign for re-election as an at-large member since April of last year, when an audit from the Office of Campaign Finance noted that the campaign appeared to pass nearly $240,000 to a firm controlled by his brother, Che Brown.

Ultimately, prosecutors focused on his personal finances. It was a distinction that Mr. Brown discreetly alluded to in the days leading up to the charges, walling off his misdeeds in private life from his public service as an elected official.

D.C Council member Mary Cheh (right), Ward 3 Democrat, will take over as council chairman with the resignation Wednesday evening of Kwame R. Brown. The council will meet next Wednesday to appoint one of the four at-large members as interim chairman. Mr. Brown was charged earlier in the day in federal court with one count of felony bank fraud involving a home-equity loan. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

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D.C Council member Mary Cheh (right), Ward 3 Democrat, will take over ... more >

Court papers say Mr. Brown falsified documents in 2005 by inflating his income in order to obtain a home-equity loan and money to purchase his boat, “Bullet Proof.”

Mr. Brown overstated his income as an at-large member of the council by “tens of thousands of dollars” on the home-equity loan he filed with Industrial Bank in September 2005, according to the papers.

The filing of a criminal information typically signals that a plea agreement is in the works. Mr. Brown is scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon at the federal courthouse Friday morning for a plea-agreement hearing.

Mr. Brown submitted his resignation letter to council Secretary Nyasha Smith late Wednesday afternoon. In it, he apologized to city residents and to members of the council “for all of the negative attention that my conduct has brought about.”

“I have behaved in ways that I should not have,” he said. “I was wrong, and I will face the consequences of that conduct.”

He had emerged from his office Wednesday afternoon flanked by staff members and declined to comment about his future. He promised to make a statement Thursday, as a scrum of media cameras jostled with staff who tried to protect the chairman and usher him alongside security officers to the fifth-floor elevators at the John A. Wilson Building.

Word of his impending resignation took lawmakers at city hall by surprise.

“I’m shocked by the news. I am disappointed and saddened,” Mayor Vincent C. Gray said before the resignation was announced.

Mr. Gray noted that he was elected to the Ward 7 seat on the council in 2004, the same year that Mr. Brown became an at-large member. “I served with him my entire time on the council. Never would I have imagined something like this would occur,” he said.

Council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, will lead the body until the members gather next Wednesday to appoint one of the four at-large members as interim chairman ahead of a special election to permanently replace Mr. Brown.

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