We believe the sentence former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown received for bank fraud on Tuesday, Nov. 12 was lenient and fair. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon sentenced Brown to 480 hours of community service at 20 hours per month, six months of house arrest, and one day of detention. It's an unfortunate situation the young politician got himself into, and although he pleaded guilty and resigned from the Council, we agree that a stronger sentence would do no good.
In June, Brown, 42, admitted that he provided false information on two bank loan applications in 2005 while he was an at-large member on the D.C. Council – one, a home equity loan worth $184,000, and a second loan for $55,335 to buy a boat. He used false employment records, inflated his salary and forged the signature of a friend on loan documents, offenses that could have result in a maximum sentence of 30 years, although he was only facing up to six months of prison time.
In addition to the guilty plea, Brown also resigned from his chairman's position after serving less than 18 months following his election to fill the seat left vacant by Vincent Gray who was elected mayor the same year. Brown apologized to his colleagues on the Council, along with D.C. voters, and his family. In his letter of resignation, Brown wrote: "I have behaved in ways that I should not have. I was wrong, and I will face the consequences of that conduct."
We are not aware of what law officials were snooping for that led them to search Brown's personal finances dating back six years prior, especially knowing that he paid off both loans. However, Brown insists that he has never stolen nor improperly used any public money, nor used his office or position for personal or political gain.
So, the good news is that there will not be an extended absence due to incarceration of another father of two young children in a household who will need his care and guidance regardless of his misguided actions. That, alone, is the sad consequence of the poor decisions that lead to the incarceration of a disproportionate number of African-American men who fill the nation's prisons instead of their children's homes. And, the judge sentenced Brown to what comes naturally for him – community service – and what he works extremely hard at perfecting.
The sad news, however, is that District residents approved three charter amendments in the Nov. 6 general election, of which one "would make anyone who is convicted of a felony while holding the office of council member ineligible to remain in office and ineligible to ever hold the office again." Thus, Kwame Brown's career as a D.C. politician may be over forever but then that depends on the timeline, interpretation of the measure and Brown's determination to fight for his right to serve.