By. LeMara Perry
A Federal judge has sentenced former DC At-Large Councilmember, Michael Brown, to 39 months in prison on a bribery charge.
Brown, son of former Commerce Secretary, Ron Brown, was charged in June 2013 with accepting more than $50, 000 in bribes in an undercover FBI sting operation.
The 39-month sentence, handed down by Chief U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts, was four months shy of the prosecutors’ request for a 43-month prison term, the maximum amount of time that Brown could receive under his plea agreement.
Judge Roberts noted that Brown had brought “dishonor, on an honored family name,” as Brown’s father, killed in a 1996 plane crash in Croatia, was the first African American to hold his position as commerce secretary. He was also a national Democratic party leader.
In a statement to the judge, Brown said that he should have resisted the temptations around him and apologized to his family, friends, staff and colleagues.
“My parents raised me much better than this, your honor,” he said. “I should have known better than to put myself in this situation.”
Last year, when Brown first plead guilty, the deal called for a sentence no longer than 37 months; however, prosecutors amended the deal and raised the cap to 43-months because Brown was not fully cooperative with investigators. They also extend their statement of fact to include not only the money that was taken in bribes, but the nearly $150,000 in off-the-book donations received during his 2007 and 2008 political campaigns.
In the sting operation, where FBI agents posed as businessmen seeking Certified Business Enterprise certification, Brown took $55,000 in cash payments. The money was handed to him in $100 bills rolled or stacked inside coffee mugs and duffle bags. Some of the transactions were even caught on camera. Brown admitted to contacting city agencies numerous times on behalf of the purported contractor. His acceptance of the bribes occurred around the same time council members Harry Thomas Jr. and Kwame Brown pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.
“Michael Brown sold his elected office for personal gain. The price was $55,000 cash,” said prosecutor Michael Atkinson.
Prosecutors equated Browns offenses to his prior illegal behavior, dating back to as far as 1994, when he made illegal campaign contributions through a conduit, resulting in a misdemeanor conviction.
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, while Brown credited his financial woes to his messy divorce.
As part of his plea agreement, Brown helped investigators in a corruption probe that lead to the guilty plea of D.C. businessman, Jeffrey E. Thompson, who was charged with conspiring to violate federal and district campaign finance laws, by submitting false filings to the Internal Revenue Service. Thompson was suspected of funding what prosecutors refer to as $653,000 “shadow campaign” for Mayor Vincent Gray. The allegations that Gray knew about Thompson’s campaign came weeks before he lost his reelection bid to Muriel Bowser in the April Democratic primary. Gray has yet to be charged in the investigation.