As he addressed the media after a court appearance, perhaps the enormity of his circumstances finally broke through Kwame R. Brown's customary bravado.
As he made a public statement last Friday following one of two court appearances to answer to a felony and a misdemeanor charge, Brown, choked up, his voice broke and he paused twice as he expressed regret for his actions.
"I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart to all those I have let down, the people of this great city," Brown said as he paused, his head bowed. "... my neighbors and friends, the mayor, my council colleagues, government officials and employees of the government who work so hard to serve our city."
"[To] my wife of 18 years, my children, mom, dad. I sincerely regret the pain that this has caused each of you. My mother and father they raised me never to be in a situation like this..."
Financial improprieties, unwise choices and poor judgment brought down the city's second most powerful elected official. From the time Brown threw his hat in the political ring, his finances were fodder for the media. He was at one point said to be $700,000 in debt and owed money on credit cards and other bills.
Brown, 41, resigned on June 8, after federal prosecutors made public a plea agreement where he admitted submitting false information to secure a $166,000 home equity loan, as well as a $55,000 loan he used to buy a powerboat. The feds also accused Brown of inflating his income by "tens of thousands of dollars" in activities that began in 2005. Brown received both loans from Industrial Bank.
In the second case, Brown, former chairman of the D.C. Council, pleaded guilty to violating a District campaign law that bars candidates from paying campaign employees more than $50. Brown – who acknowledged aiding and abetting a relative to pay $1,500 to a campaign worker during the 2008 campaign –faces up to six months in jail.
Brown was elected as an at-large member of the District of Columbia Council in 2004, and took office in January 2005. He was re-elected in 2008, and then, in 2010, he was elected chairman. He took office in January 2011.
"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," said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen. "While sitting on the Council, Kwame Brown repeatedly falsified and forged documents to deceive the bank into giving him money, even faxing one of the fraudulent documents from his Council office. Brown also gave a family member free license to make illegal and untraceable cash expenditures from his 2008 campaign in violation of D.C. law."
"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."
As part of the plea agreement, he agreed to resign immediately from the council and cooperate with the authorities.
"It's very unfortunate for Brown and his family, but especially for the District of Columbia, which once again is cast in a bad light because of the personal indiscretions of leaders in prominent positions," said former City Administrator Michael Rogers. "You should not say that the whole council is corrupt. When you look at the number of men and women who have served – in the hundreds – you only have two."
The two are Brown and former Ward 5 Council member Harry L. Thomas, Jr., who a federal judge sentence in early June to a 38-month sentence for stealing $353,500 to finance a lavish lifestyle.
Brown's fall from grace rocked a city already reeling from scandals and ethical lapses that have encompassed Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and several of Brown's fellow council members.
On May 22, Thomas Gore, the mayor's longtime friend and the campaign's assistant treasurer admitted in federal court to giving campaign funds to minor mayoral candidate Sulaimon M. Brown and obstructing justice. And Howard L. Brooks, a Gray consultant, pled guilty two days later to lying to the FBI about payments he made to Brown.
Gray maintains that he was unaware of any illegal campaign activity and has so far not been connected to any crime. However, the noose is tightening.
The mayor's ability to do his job has been severely hampered by the swirl of accusations and the consensus is that he will either be a one-term mayor or not survive his first term.
For weeks, one source said, workers in the Wilson Building have been on tenterhooks.
"The speculation was driving us nuts. With the rumors and speculation, no one knew what to do," said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The wind was knocked out of everyone. We knew he loved the city."
The source described Brown as "arrogant but not an idiot," and "a little cocky but [someone who] got the job done."
Brown was well known for his swagger, as someone who referred to himself in the third person, and on whose office walls hung several photos of heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali standing over a prostrate Sonny Liston.
In the aftermath of this latest humiliation, those in the District are speculating which politician will fall next and the effect all this will have on the city.
Despite the stigma that these scandals have engendered, Council member Jack Evans (Ward 2) is confident the city will be fine.
"I'm extremely disappointed in Kwame Brown's actions and for putting the city and council through this and now he's gone," Evans said. "I'm very disappointed he allowed this to drag on for as long as he did. We haven't missed a beat, however, and we're moving forward without any distractions."
Evans, 58, said the furor that swirled around city hall has quieted down.
"I've been here, seen a lot, such as the [John] Wilson suicide, Dave Clarke, the Barry incident, the Control Board," he said. "I have seen a lot. The city functioned then and it's stronger today than it's ever been. The city will be fine."
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Dionne Y. Brown agreed that the District would bounce back from this latest scandal.
"I like Kwame so this has been hard. I like him as a person but never liked him as a council member," she said. "He had no resume, no roots in the community, no political activity in the city and no credible work experience that prepared him to be a legislator," said Brown during a weekend interview.
Brown said real change will take place when District voters hold candidates and elected officials accountable.
"We are tarnished right now, although the city's reputation wasn't sterling. What this means for D.C. is what it means for voters. Will they demand more, raise their standards and scrutinize candidates better?"
"Who could imagine last Sunday that we'd be in this place this Sunday?"