One thing that jumps out about the $55,000 former D.C. Councilmember Michael Brown allegedly took in bribes from undercover FBI agents is when authorities say he started taking them: July 11, 2012. That’s just one day after Vince Gray shadow campaign operative Jeanne Clarke Harris pleaded guilty in federal court on corruption charges.
U.S. Attorney Ron Machen used Harris’ guilty plea as a chance to tell the District’s politicos that he was cleaning house. “The truth is going to come out in the end,” Machen warned, “And you’re far better off if you come to us on your own rather than waiting for us to approach you.”
Apparently, that warning wasn’t enough to deter Brown, whose lawyer says that “severe financial difficulties” enticed him into taking the bribes.
Two more dates stand out in the investigation: Nov. 6, 2012, and April 23, 2013, the two at-large elections Brown participated in while being drawn into the FBI’s scheme. If Brown had fought off challenger David Grosso and retained his seat last fall, the District would be facing its third indicted councilmember in a year and a half. Brown’s exit from his campaign to get back on the Council, meanwhile, came three weeks after the charging documents say the bribery scheme ended.
Questions LL will ponder this weekend: Why did federal agents let Brown stay in the campaign for months after they allegedly paid him tens of thousands of dollars for help getting certification as a D.C.-based contractor? And why did they let him get into the April election? Even though he wound up quitting, his early presence in the race might have affected who else did or didn’t get into the field.
We’ll find out more when Brown pleads guilty in Judge Robert L. Wilkins‘ courtroom Monday afternoon, with a press conference from the U.S. Attorney’s Office to follow.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery