Updated 3:29 p.m.
Federal prosecutors had asked for six days in jail, served on weekends, as punishment for a once rising-star in the Washington political community. In the end, Kwame Brown, a former chairman of the District of Columbia Council, will spend the afternoon in federal custody—about six hours in all.
Rejecting probation as stand-alone reprimand, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon today told Brown, who pleaded guilty to a bank fraud charge, he will remain in custody until 5:30 p.m. Leon also ordered Brown to serve six months of home detention and to spend two years on supervised release. Brown must complete 480 hours of community service.
Brown was sentenced this morning in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in downtown Washington. He will be transported this afternoon across the street to D.C. Superior Court, where he has a pending campaign finance violation. The case against Brown was the latest in a series of recent prosecutions against local officials brought by the office of U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr.
Today in federal court, in a crowded courtroom, Brown spoke briefly about his fall from grace—about his personal disappointment, the embarrassment in the community, the lost opportunities. Brown admitted falsifying information on bank loans. In one instance, he overstated his income to buy a luxury boat.
"The conduct cost me more than any of those loans are worth," Brown said in his remarks to Leon. Brown later described his actions as "stupid," adding: "I was wrong."
Brown pleaded guilty in June in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of bank fraud. The crimes were not directly tied to his duties as an elected public official in the District.
Brown's attorney, Frederick Cooke Jr. of Washington's Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris & Cooke, had urged Leon not to lock up Brown. Cooke today said Leon had discretion to suspend any jail sentence.
"Horrible, horrible mistake in judgment," Cooke said in court today. "Foolish decision. But nobody was harmed."
Cooke reminded Leon that Brown will carry the status of a convicted felon for the rest of his life. "He has paid a serious price," the defense lawyer said.
David Johnson, an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said in court today that the government believes Brown is genuinely remorseful. Prosecutors also lauded his cooperation with the government in ongoing investigations.
Johnson insisted that a six-day jail term would send a strong message to the community that bank fraud will not be tolerated. "The residents of D.C. are watching this case," the prosecutor said.
In a letter to the judge November 1, Brown sought leniency. He noted that the "lies and false information" on loan applications didn't result in any loss to the bank. He didn't intend to defraud the bank, he said, but, rather, he wanted loans to which he would not be otherwise entitled.
"My public humiliation, the pain that I have caused to my family, friends and supporters, the embarrassment that I have caused to the city that I love are all the consequences of my actions," Brown wrote. "I did not intend those consequences, but they are the product of my actions nonetheless."
This afternoon, D.C. Superior Court Judge Juliet McKenna sentenced Brown to 30 days in jail. The judge suspended the sentence, however, on the condition that he successfully completes two years of supervised release. That sentence is concurrent to the sentence Leon imposed this morning.
The prosecution of Brown was the second against a sitting member of the D.C. Council this year.
Harry Thomas Jr., a former member of the D.C. Council, was sentenced to more than three years in prison for theft and tax charges. Thomas pleaded guilty to stealing more than $353,000 in public funds.
“Kwame Brown squandered his bright political future and an opportunity to be a role model for the District’s youth,” Machen said in a statement this afternoon. “His greed and ambition led him to forge documents and break the laws governing campaign spending. Kwame Brown’s fall from city leader to convicted felon should chasten others who believe they are above the law."