Loose Lips

Feds Want 43 Months for High-Living Michael Brown

Michael Brown had problems. He owed $1.46 million on his mortgage, an amount that had ballooned by nearly half its original size thanks to late fees. Brown had to make countless other payments to keep up his image as a successful at-large councilmember—a golf course membership, hotel stays, fancy shopping trips, even mortgage payments for other people.

In July 2012, Brown decided to get some relief from his bills by accepting bribes from two Maryland businessmen in exchange for help getting them District contracting certifications. As Brown and the District would learn, the businessmen were actually undercover FBI agents. The solution to Brown's problems had made them all much, much worse.

In a sentencing memorandum filed today, prosecutors paint Brown as a man so obsessed with appearances that, even after pleading guilty, he disguised help from shadow campaign maestro Jeff Thompson from investigators to preserve the integrity of his one successful campaign. In the document, prosecutors ask for Brown to serve the full 43 months of Brown's plea and say a whole lot of mean stuff about him along the way.

In their own filing, Brown's lawyers ask for him to receive an unspecified sentence that's less severe than the 37 months outlined as the lower end in his plea agreement when he's sentenced on May 8. Brown turned to crime, according to his lawyers, only because "traditional lending options [were] closed off to him."

The prosecution isn't so generous. Growing up with benefits of a well-connected family as the son of former Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, prosecutors write, Brown can't claim the deprivation that drives other men to crime.

“But when it came to the qualities that should matter most for elective office—honesty and integrity—Michael Brown was simply unfit for the political heights he had reached," the memo reads. "A review of Defendant’s character demonstrates that, in spite of the many advantages and opportunities he was afforded throughout his life, Defendant nevertheless chose to walk a path marred by shortcuts, easy money, and corruption”

Despite earning a yearly salary between $180,000 and $300,000 since 2007, prosecutors write, Brown was always low on money. They blame his spending on an attempt to maintain an "affluent image," with money being the only thing that gave his life "balance."

“The problem, and it was a problem of his for a long time, was that he never had enough money," the memo reads. "And so his life—personally and professionally—was in a perpetual state of imbalance."

Both Brown's attorneys and the government agree that he helped with the federal investigation into city contractor and illicit campaign backer Thompson, who pleaded guilty on March 10. Brown, like Vince Gray, apparently also knew Thompson's "Uncle Earl" code name.

Still, while he admitted receiving illegal help from Thompson in his 2007 Ward 4 Council run against current mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser, Brown didn't tell prosecutors that Thompson had also backed his 2008 at-large run. Brown only admitted to the scheme after prosecutors confronted him with evidence of it, a deception that could cost him another six months in prison. Prosecutors theorize that Brown, headed to prison anyway, still didn't come forward with that crime because it “brought more personal shame to him, [and] tainted the only City-wide election Defendant ever won."

Asking for leniency, Brown's lawyers point to his help with investigations into Thompson, the lottery contract award, and the federal pursuit of Hakim Sutton, a former Brown campaign treasurer charged last month with stealing from Brown's unsuccessful 2012 re-election campaign to fund his own jetsetting lifestyle. In a coincidence that likely doesn't seem that funny to Brown, he met with investigators in 2012 to help them pursue Sutton even as other investigators were drawing him further into their sting.

Brown's lawyers also take a jab at fellow Thompson shadow campaign beneficiaries like Gray, pointing out that Brown is the only public official who's admitted to knowing about Thompson's illicit help.

Letters in support of Brown come from Brown family members as well as friends including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Black Entertainment Television CEO Debra Lee, and former Gray spokeswoman Linda Wharton Boyd. The letters reveal a personal side of the former councilmember—Brown has apparently become a fan of watching The Young & The Restless with his ailing mother. Brown's sister writes that he's a fiend for "would you rather" questions like "Would you rather eat a slug, chewing it slowly, or a large bowl of mayonnaise?" (That's easy, councilmember—the mayo!)

Brown's son Morgan Brown submitted his own letter in which he talks about how his father's plea dashed his own plans to extend the family's political dynasty for another generation.

“I planned on going to law school and becoming a city council member in DC, just like him," Brown's son writes. "Now I am sad, disappointed and worried.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Comments

  1. #1

    I MET MR. BROWN WHEN I USED TO WORK ON H ST ( MENS FASHION CENTER ) , A VERY NICE GUY WHO HELP A LOT OF PEOPLE, YES ,HE MADE A MISTAKE ,BUT HE DIDN'T DO WHAT HARRY THOMAS JR. DID( VERY SAD ) BUT I WILL BE PRAYING FOR HIM AND HIS FAMILY .

  2. #2

    Is it wrong that I grinned the entire time I read this?

    Man comes from an affluent family, lies cheats and steals his way to office. Makes between 180K-300K a year for the duration and has the nutz to blame his entire situation on the fact that "standard financing wasn't available to him".

    Then after the FBI had him to rights, and he knows Thompson is under investigation, he STILL decides to lie about his relationship with him.

    And thank god his son decided not to run. The last thing we need is another generation of this crime family "gettin their swagger" all over town.

  3. #3

    Kwame Kilpatrick, Jack Johnson, Harry Thomas, Jr.,; Kwame Brown, Jesse Jackson, Jr....

    I will not say anything negative or disparage Mr. Brown, suffice to say, WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS HE THINKING?

  4. #4

    One of the biggest mistakes that too many black voters and black politicians make when it comes to defining whose “fit” to be a leader is believing in the notion that advanced education,good articulation and other qualities based on pure aesthetics should be seen as “decisive” factors.

    Let me be clear.

    Being an effective leader or public servant has very little to do with one’s educational background or one’s ability to articulate. The number one thing that any black leader or public servant MUST have in order to be effective is: A GENUINE CONCERN FOR OTHERS.

    You can’t be an effective leader or public servant without having ‘a genuine concern for others’. Sadly, too many black folks and politicians do not grasp this simple reality. Instead, they believe that good leadership qualities are rooted in the number of degrees one has or personal achievements.

    This sad and pathetic falsehood which has been embraced by too many black leaders and voters has rendered too many black politicians irrelevant, ineffective and prone to a culture of corruption.

  5. #5

    @tony: Great comment!

  6. #6

    @tony--i agree!

  7. #7

    Is there still time for others to write community impact statements for this case?

    The damaging affect on the over all morale of the city; the damaging affect that this has had on black families, and others, trying to raise children to do the right thing; the message Brown's actions send to those (majority African Americans) already sucked into the criminal justice vortex that even those from exemplary priviledged black families can't get ahead without engaging in selfish crimes; the tarnishing the otherwise honorable institution of public service; deceiving voters; failing to address the urgent needs of the most needy all across the city while this selfish self centered man used his at large public office primarily for his own greed; and the negative affect this certainly has when we argue for #DCStatehood and those officials (mainly Republicans) and staff always point to corruption of the DC govt (they used to just name Marion Barry, now they have the Brownies, Graham, Gray, Harry Thomas Jr,) — are all issues that the judge should take into consideration before sentencing.

  8. #8

    @tony

    I agree about the bottom line of concern for others but would take a slightly different view.

    The majority of these local fallen pols (see Marvin's post) are short on personal achievement and impressive degrees. That to me is the big warning sign. The want to jump into a cushy job that pays 100k+ but they could never get that based on their achievements to date. Thus they see the political job as a path to financial independence which leads to corruption. To me they are distinctly different than the Curt Schmokes (Rhodes Scholar) Barack Obamas (Columbia, Yale) and Duval Patricks (Harvard,Harvard, Business Exec)of the world.

    Now all that education and world success does not net you the ability to meet all you constituents needs, but it seems to lessen the need to be seen in shiny pinstriped suits and expensive Audis

  9. #9

    Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans is white and he could clearly care less about anyone but people like himself, people with money, and those lackeys who suck up to him; and he has a lot of white support.

    Simple minded people, and the press, always want to make DeeCee issues all about race.

    Chief Lanier only had a GED when she entered MPD, then she got a degree from UDC, and since then graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins. She's not perfect, but like other officials, she's earned the support, respects and confidence of many black residents, and others, because she clearly does care.

    Corporate money is also involved in deceiving voters. Kenyan McDuffie seems to care.

  10. #10

    One thing that must be said...he did help the people of DC. If you came to his office you did receive help and he gave people a chance.

  11. #11

    dude was clearly delusional

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