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Question of the Day
WASHINGTON (AP) - Former District of Columbia Councilmember Michael A. Brown was sentenced Thursday to more than three years in prison for taking over $50,000 in bribes in an undercover FBI sting, a comparatively stiff sentence from a judge who said “we cannot have city government run this way.”
The 39-month sentence imposed by Chief U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts nearly matched prosecutors’ request for a 43-month prison term - the most Brown could have received under the terms of his plea bargain.
Brown’s lawyers had sought a more lenient sentence.
Brown, who served a single term on the D.C. Council after winning election in 2008, apologized to his constituents and to his family.
“I should have resisted the culture of corruption running rampant in our city,” Brown, 49, said.
Prosecutors said Brown’s crime fits a pattern of illegal behavior that stretched back to 1994, when Brown made illegal campaign contributions through a conduit that resulted in a misdemeanor conviction.
In the sting operation, Brown took $55,000 in cash payments, handed to him in rolls and stacks of $100 bills transmitted in coffee mugs and duffel bags. Some of the transactions were caught on camera.
The undercover FBI agent was posing as a businessman seeking preferential treatment on government contracts. Brown admitted contacting city agencies numerous times on behalf of the purported contractor.
“Michael Brown sold his elected office for personal gain. The price was $55,000 cash,” said prosecutor Michael Atkinson.
Prosecutors said Brown needed the money to fund a lavish lifestyle despite annual income from his job on the council and as a lobbyist that exceeded $200,000. Brown said his financial woes stemmed from a messy divorce.
When Brown first entered his guilty plea last year, the deal called for a sentence no longer than 37 months. But prosecutors said Brown was not fully cooperative with investigators who were pursuing related corruption cases. As a result, they amended the deal to raise the cap to 43 months, and included language in the statement of facts to refer not only to the $55,000 in bribes he took during the sting, but also nearly $150,000 in off-the-books donations to his political campaigns in 2007 in 2008.
Most of that money came from businessman Jeffrey Thompson, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges earlier this year that included allegations he helped fund a “shadow campaign” for District Mayor Vincent Gray.
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