Kwame Brown pleads guilty to bank fraud charges
Former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown pleaded guilty to charges of bank fraud in D.C. court Friday.
Brown also admitted to a misdemeanor campaign finance violation.
Brown appeared both apologetic and defiant as he addressed reporters, noting that prosecutors had not charged him with stealing or misusing any campaign funds despite a long-running federal investigation.
He appeared to choke up as he apologized to his family and the public.
"It has been a long and difficult journey," he said. "Today, I am taking the first step in regaining the trust of the people I love and serve."
The U.S. Attorney filed a misdemeanor campaign violation charge in D.C. Superior Court Thursday against Brown, linked to his 2008 re-election campaign. Prosecutors are accusing him of authorizing a relative, believed to be his brother, Che Brown, to open a "side account" and make withdrawals.
Brown apologized for his actions, saying in a letter that he had made some "very serious mistakes in judgment."
Amidst Brown stepping down from his post, city leaders are trying to reassure residents that D.C. government is still strong.
“I don't think there's widespread corruption here,” said Mayor Vincent Gray. “I think before people jump to conclusions look at how city is running and it’s running very well.”
The remaining councilmembers are scheduled to meet next week to select a new interim chairman from the four at-large members.
Corrupt officials have been brought down in other places, but the problem is magnified in a city where the governing body has only 13 members, effectively functions as a state legislature and operates less than three blocks from the White House.
"Whatever it's resignations, investigations, whatever it is - I think it's had a very bad effect," said Councilmember Mary Cheh, now the panel's acting chairwoman. "People are feeling demoralized, I think they're feeling disappointed."
Cheh said the investigations risk setting back the goal of gaining more autonomy for district residents.
Brown faces up to six months in prison, as well as a possible maximum fine of $5,000, for the bank fraud charge per an agreement between the parties, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen, Jr. said. The campaign finance charge carries the same punishment.
"For the second time this year, a member of the D.C. Council has pled guilty to a felony offense and been forced to resign," Machen said. "The people of the District of Columbia deserve better from their elected officials. Today's pleas take us one step closer to a culture of integrity and accountability that will not tolerate politicians engaging in dishonesty and self dealing."
The charges come five months after another councilmember, Harry Thomas Jr., resigned and pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $350,000 in government funds earmarked for youth sports and arts.
He was sentenced to more than three years in prison. Last month, two former Gray campaign aides pleaded guilty to charges arising from the 2010 mayoral race.
One aide admitted lying to the FBI about straw donations to a minor candidate in the race. The other aide admitted funneling money and destroying evidence of the transactions.
The payments were intended to keep the candidate, Sulaimon Brown, in the race so he could continue assailing then-Mayor Adrian Fenty as he sought reelection.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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