Discuss former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown's resignation, charges with Post reporter

Jun 07, 2012

D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown resigned from his seat Wednesday night, hours after he was charged with bank fraud, plunging the city government into a leadership crisis.

Post reporter Del Wilber, who is covering this story, discussed Brown's resignation, charges and what will happen next.

Hello, everyone! I'm here. It's been a crazy few weeks at the District's federal courthouse. I've been covering the perjury trial of baseball legend Roger Clemens. But yesterday I switched gears to write about the charges filed against D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D). He resigned shortly after federal prosecutors lodged one count of bank fraud against him. This is major event with titantic implications for the D.C. government, which is now enduring a leadership crisis with the resignation of its second highest-ranking official. Brown is slated to appear at a plea hearing Friday. Oh, and follow me on Twitter: @delwilber for the latest updates in this case and others. Anyway, bring on the questions!

Do we know if the plea agreement includes a commitment by Mr. Brown to cooperate with prosecutors addressing corrupation in either his earlier campaigns or DC politics overall??

Unfortunately, we will not know the answer to that question until tomorrow -- or unless someone involved in the plea discussions talks. But we shall see. In many instances, such as the two Gray campaign staffers who pleaded guilty last month, federal authorities insist on such cooperation provisions. That matter, btw, involves Gray's 2010 mayoral campaign. His two aides pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges when they lied about, or destroyed records concerning, campaign payoffs to a minor candidate in the race. They wanted to keep that candidate in the contest so he would continue to assailt then incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Mr. Wilber, does the plea deal agreed to in this case result in Mr. Brown having to serve any time in jail?

We won't know that until his sentencing. I suspect that Brown's attorney, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., and prosecutors argued/discussed/negotiated the federal sentencing guideline range. In this type of case, it could be something like 12-24 months. But that is just a guess. The federal judge presiding over this case does not have to sentence him within that range. He can depart either upward (the max penalty is 30 years) or downward. We shall see what U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon does. But he has to provide a good reason for departing from that range. Cooke has not returned any of my calls or e-mails over the last few days, so if you see him, please tell him to call me!

From commenter NoVa22066: Mr. Wilber: Who is the prosecutor who will be proposing this plea deal to the Council Chairman? If he's US Attorney, should we worry that he's going to get a favorable deal because he works for Obama's Administration? Should we expert a harsh sentence because he's not a DC city government insider? As soon as he gets a plea deal, we're going to question it and the person who made it. Who is this person?

Ronald C. Machen Jr. is the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and he would most certainly have approved any deal with Brown. Prosecutors make deals such as this to avoid costly -- and risky -- trials. It ensures that a public official is forced to resign and likely faces some jail time. The entire system works because of such plea deals. If everyone went to trial -- even just the high-profile cases -- the system would collapse. Also, I'm not sure that Brown could have afforded a lengthy trial defense. He was at least $700,000 in debt just a few years ago. So it might have been in his best interest to reach a compromise plea to: A) avoid the risk of more serious prison time -- by pleading, he will get "acceptance of responsiblity credit." And B) He is not paying many hundreds of dollars an hour to mount what would be a challenging defense. 

Will he be arrested? When will be brought to court, and what is the typical punishment for a bank fraud charge?

I already answered part of this. No, he won't be arrested. He will appear voluntarily tomorrow in the District's federal court. His plea is scheduled for 11 a.m. Come and see the show. 

Is this basically vindication for Fenty? Many residents felt that electing Vincent Gray was a step back to a time when corruption was acceptable, now it looks like much of the old guard is as corrupt as we all feared.

I think that is probably a better question posed of Mike DeBonis. I'll email him and get a response for you. If he avoids us, you can tweet him at @mikedebonis.

Why is Kwame only being charged with a misdemeanor? Is this because he has cut some sweet deal with prosecutors? It seems that, stemming back to the SUV incident, there should be a basis for much more than one or two misdemeanors.

On Wednesday, Brown was charged with a federal felony: bank fraud. He resigned soon thereafter. Today, he was charged in D.C. Superior Court with a misdemeanor accusing him of a campaign finance violation. Two separate cases. I suspect that federal prosecutors were not able to get the misdemeanor charge into federal court. They did so in the case of one of the Gray campaign workers because it was directly linked to the obstruction of justice charge. I may need to research this today. 

Will the new campaign finance charges be brought up tomorrow in the hearing or are they completely separate matters?

They are separate matters in separate courts. He will have two plea hearings -- one in federal court, to the bank fraud charge. And one in Superior Court, to the misdemeanor. It carries a max penalty of 6 months in jail. 

What does the single felony charge, of bank fraud, indicate about the scope of federal investigations concerning political figures in the District?

Nothing. It just shows that they dug into his finances and found that he provided falsified documents to Industrial Bank to obtain a home equity loan and a loan for his $50,000 powerboat, "Bullet Proof."

Thank you all for joining me! follow me on Twitter: @delwilber if you want to keep track of developments.

In This Chat
Del Quentin Wilber
Del Quentin Wilber covers the federal courts and federal law enforcement. A graduate of Georgetown Prep and Northwestern University, he worked at the Baltimore Sun before joining the Washington Post in 2004. Wilber is also the author of the New York Times best-seller Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan.
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