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This past week was not a good one for former D.C. Council chairman and convicted felon Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown. First, a judge denied his request to be allowed to travel to North Carolina as a part of a college tour for District youngsters that he says he’s been a part of in past years. Second, another federal judge sentenced his brother, Che Brown, to serve three months in prison for committing bank fraud.Last summer, Kwame Brown was sentenced to spend only a few hours in custody of U.S. marshals after pleading guilty to the same crime.
Che Brown’s punishment was harsher because he’d previously pleaded guilty to bank fraud in 1995.While the legal reasons for the disparate punishments are easy enough to understand, it still seems odd that Che Brown is doing much harder time than his brother. After all, if the feds hadn’t been interested in Kwame Brown the politician, they likely never would have looked at Che Brown’s bank records. And Kwame Brown lied about his income in order to buy a boat, while Che Brown lied about his income in order to lower his monthly mortgage payments.
The difference in punishments between the Brown brothers highlights a sometimes uncomfortable outcome of federal investigation into District elected officials: The politicians wind up getting off much easier than the nonpoliticians.Take the federal probe of Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham. The feds didn’t accuse Graham of wrongdoing, but his former chief of staff, Ted Loza, did eight months in prison after pleading guilty to accepting an illegal gratuity. Loza successfully fought off a bribery charge and did not cooperate with the feds.
By contrast, Abdul Kamus, a lobbyist for the Ethiopian taxi industry, cooperated fully with authorities once they busted him for trying to bribe city officials. Kamus participated in undercover sting operations and helped build a case against Loza and tried to make one against Graham. Despite this cooperation and the fact that he wasn’t even a public official, Kamus was sentenced to four more months in prison than Loza was.
U.S. Attorney Ron Machen’s office declined to comment on these sentencing disparities.But here’s one more to consider: Before Jeanne Clarke Harris pleaded guilty last summer to being a key figure in a “shadow campaign” Machen says illegally helped Mayor Vince Gray win election in 2010, she was a bit player in a federal probe targeting former Councilmember H.R. Crawford. Harris was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty in 1988 to hiding knowledge about Crawford’s alleged misuse of city funds, according to media reports at the time. One of Crawford’s council aides was also convicted and sentenced to six months in prison. Not charged with any wrongdoing: H.R. Crawford.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery