- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Federal prosecutors are seeking “real and meaningful incarceration” for prominent D.C. developer Douglas Jemal after his conviction last year on wire-fraud charges, newly filed court records show.

But a D.C. Council member, a former council member and several top business leaders have written letters to the judge seeking leniency for Douglas Development Corp.’s Jemal, whose attorneys are asking for probation.

With his sentencing less than two months away, Jemal’s attorneys have filed court papers to dismiss the conviction, but a judge has not yet ruled on the motion. They are also lining up support from several prominent community leaders.

“His commitment to the civic good of Washington has greatly benefited all of us who live and work here,” D.C. Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, wrote of Jemal. His letter was among 204 included in recent court filings by Jemal’s attorneys.

The developer’s attorneys also have filed letters and pictures from Jemal’s grandchildren, as well as words of support from several banking and business leaders, former council member Harold Brazil, a New Jersey politician and an Episcopalian priest from Alexandria.

In Jemal’s sentencing memo, Mayor Harry I. Franco, of Deal, N.J., called Jemal “an inspiring role model” for his charity work. And the Rev. Pierce Klemmt, of Christ Church in Alexandria, said Jemal has helped the church in its outreach work for the poor.

Noting Jemal’s real estate development efforts in the District, Mr. Brazil called him “a brave man and one we should admire and thank for what he did for our city.”

The 55-page defense memo argues that sending Jemal to prison would jeopardize Douglas Development’s existence, resulting in the loss of jobs for about 120 company employees and loss of work for more than 800 contractors.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Dubester questioned the letters in a court pleading filed Monday.

“The letter writers are clearly unaware of … defendant’s willingness to resort to dishonest means to obtain money,” the prosecutor wrote. “They just don’t know what the jury knew and found beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Mr. Dubester also criticized Jemal’s enacting a corporate compliance plan in the wake of the case.

He said Jemal should fire Douglas Development’s leasing executive Blake Esherick and John Brownell, the firm’s chief financial officer, who pleaded guilty to tax charges in a separate case.

The prosecutor said Jemal would have fired the employees if he was serious about “cleaning up his company,” … “thereby ridding himself of the convicted felons he selected to occupy the highest levels of his company’s management.”

Jemal, scheduled to be sentenced in April, was acquitted of bribery charges last year. But a jury found him guilty on a wire-fraud charge relating to a mortgage loan that prosecutors said Jemal and another top executive at Douglas Development falsified.

In October, Jemal, his son, Norman Jemal, and Esherick were acquitted of charges they gave $25,000 in cash and other gifts to a D.C. leasing official in exchange for favorable deals with the city.

But jurors found Douglas Jemal and Esherick guilty of wire fraud, a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison. Esherick also was found guilty of two counts of tax evasion.

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