- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007

Prominent D.C. developer Douglas Jemal, sentenced earlier this week to probation after a wire-fraud conviction last year, has petitioned a federal judge to permit him to associate with known felons.

Jemal hopes to maintain relations with Blake Esherick, his top leasing official at Douglas Development Corp., and John Brownell, the company’s chief financial officer. Esherick was sentenced to eight months in prison last month on tax and fraud charges. Brownell is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to tax charges in a separate felony case.

Defense attorneys said in a court filing that prohibiting Jemal, 64, from associating with Esherick and Brownell would disrupt Douglas Development’s business.

The attorneys noted that Judge Ricardo M. Urbina gave permission for Jemal to associate with Esherick after they were both convicted. He also allowed Esherick to associate with Jemal when the issue arose after Esherick’s sentencing.

The financial stability of Douglas Development figured prominently during Jemal’s sentencing on Tuesday. Defense attorney Reid Weingarten argued that a prison term for Jemal would jeopardize Douglas Development’s lines of credit.

Prosecutors argued that Jemal shouldn’t receive special treatment.

“The defendant maintains he is entitled to an exemption from standard conditions of supervised release that are routinely applied to all defendants,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Dubester said in a court memo.

Judge Urbina’s departure from sentencing guidelines that called for prison time dealt another setback in the high-profile case for prosecutors and investigators. Jemal, his son, Norman, and Esherick were acquitted of bribery charges after a two-month trial last year.

Prosecutors said the three executives gave a D.C. Office of Property Management official $25,000 and gifts for favorable treatment in leasing deals with the District.

It’s not clear whether the government will appeal Jemal’s sentence. The U.S. attorney’s office typically sends decisions that depart from federal sentencing guidelines to the U.S. solicitor general for review. The solicitor general then decides whether to appeal.

“We’re reviewing all of our options,” said Channing Phillips, spokesman for Jeffrey A. Taylor, the U.S. attorney for the District.

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