Federal prosecutors on Friday charged former D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown with one count of felony bribery for accepting $55,000 from FBI agents he thought to be representatives of a company seeking a minority contract with the District.
Mr. Brown intends to plead guilty to the criminal charge, his attorney Brian M. Heberlig confirmed Friday, calling the transaction a “serious lapse in judgment at a time when he faced severe financial difficulties.”
The sting began in July, according to charging documents filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the District. Prosecutors said Mr. Brown “corruptly demanded, sought, received, accepted, and agreed to receive and accept things of value personally” from undercover agents seeking his help to get minority business status from a fictitious “Company M.”
Mr. Brown, an independent elected in 2008, was unseated in November by council member David Grosso after a string of embarrassing disclosures, some of them having to do with his finances.
Last summer, Mr. Brown announced that more than $100,000 had been stolen from his campaign, supposedly by a trusted aide. He was also dogged by questions about his personal finances because of tax liens.
Mr. Brown this year ran in a special election in an attempt to regain his seat but abruptly dropped out of the race less than a month before the April 23 election, offering little explanation other than he had “important personal and family matters” that required his attention. His withdrawal from the race came less than a month after the FBI ended their sting operation, court documents indicate.
His late father, Ron Brown, served as commerce secretary in President Clinton’s Cabinet and as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Noting that Mr. Brown has cooperated with authorities and taken responsibility for his actions, Mr. Heberlig said his client “has apologized to his friends and family and asks his former constituents for their forgiveness as well.”
The charge comes after former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown resigned and pleaded guilty to bank fraud last year. Former council member Harry Thomas Jr. resigned from his Ward 5 seat and pleaded guilty last year to stealing $350,000 in public funds intended for youth sports programs.
A federal investigation into the 2010 campaign of Mayor Vincent C. Gray is ongoing.
“Even though elected officials are no better than ordinary people, citizens have a right to hold us to the highest standards,” he said. “The present news is a reminder that our government has not lived up to those expectations. Once again the Council, which has striven for a year to regain stability, is damaged by the specter of continuing corruption.”
No court date has been set, but the case has been assigned to Judge Robert L. Wilkins, whose appointment by President Obama to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is pending.