Former Councilman Michael Brown charged with bribery

By |
Local,DC,Alan Blinder,D.C. Council,Corruption

Federal prosecutors on Friday charged former D.C. Councilman Michael Brown with one count of bribery, ending months of silence about long-running probes of corruption in District politics and triggering speculation about where the investigations will ultimately lead.

U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr.'s prosecutors filed the felony charge in a criminal information, a type of court document that indicates the existence of a plea agreement.

According to the filing, Brown, 48, accepted $55,000 from undercover FBI agents who were purportedly seeking assistance linked to the District's Certified Business Enterprise program.

The document said Brown "corruptly demanded, sought, received, accepted and agreed to receive and accept things of value."

In a statement, Brown lawyer Brian Heberlig said that the lawmaker "made a serious lapse in judgment at a time when he faced severe financial difficulties."

Heberlig added: "He has accepted full responsibility for his mistakes, cooperated with the authorities and intends to plead guilty to the information filed today. He has apologized to his friends and family and asks his former constituents for their forgiveness as well." Brown, who pleaded guilty to a violation of federal campaign finance laws in 1997, will appear before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins at 3:30 p.m. on Monday.

Brown left office earlier this year after losing a 2012 bid for re-election. And in April, he abruptly abandoned a campaign to return to the council weeks before a special election.

At the time, he attributed his exit to "very important personal and family matters that require my immediate attention."

The charge against Brown marks the end of a prolonged period of quiet from federal prosecutors, who had not charged a D.C. politician with a crime since June 2012.

Machen's office has been conducting several investigations into corruption in city government, including a 27-month-old probe of Mayor Vincent Gray's campaign.

Aside from brief court appearances to update federal judges on the corruption probes, the prosecutors, following policy, have shunned attention as grand juries worked in secret.

But they have done little to ratchet down expectations that climaxed last summer when they secured guilty pleas from three people linked to Gray's campaign and, in a separate case, former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown.

Those cases came after Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. pleaded guilty to stealing more than $353,000 in public money.

"We obtained felony pleas from two D.C. Council members and three mayoral campaign operatives this year, but we have much more to do in 2013," Machen spokesman Bill Miller said in December.

As a part of the Gray investigation, authorities are looking into the conduct of Jeffrey Thompson, a longtime city contractor and one of the District's most prolific campaign donors.

Thompson has not been charged with a crime, but he was implicated last summer in connection with a $653,800 shadow campaign that helped elect Gray.

The authorities are also investigating the city's $38 million lottery contract and whether city officials acted improperly.

Although he has not been charged with a crime, Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham received a formal D.C. Council reprimand earlier this year for offering to link his vote on the lottery deal to a Metro development project.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner