Between July and March, Brown was so desperate for funds that he took $55,000 in cash from a company that he thought was seeking business opportunities with the city government, federal authorities alleged Friday. In fact, the business leaders were undercover investigators with the FBI.
On Friday, prosecutors charged Brown, 48, with bribery, alleging he accepted the cash in exchange for a promise to help the business secure contracts with the city and a key government certification.
The charge was presented in a criminal information, a document that can be filed only with a defendant’s consent and that typically indicates a plea deal has been reached.
Brown told supporters Thursday night that he planned to plead guilty, and his lawyer confirmed the plan Friday. A hearing has been set for Monday at the U.S. District Court in Washington.
“He has accepted full responsibility for his mistakes, cooperated with the authorities and intends to plead guilty,” said attorney Brian M. Heberlig in a statement that also said Brown “made a serious lapse in judgment at a time when he faced severe financial difficulties.”
For Brown, the guilty plea amounts to the most dramatic lapse to date in a public life that has seen many of them.
The son of Ronald H. Brown, the late commerce secretary and Democratic National Committee chairman, the younger Brown grew up in the District’s upper-middle-class “Gold Coast” along 16th Street NW.
He followed his father into politics, pursuing a career in lobbying before choosing, about eight years ago, to seek public office in his home town.
Though benefiting from his father’s good looks, easy charm and political connections, Brown has struggled at times to make his own way in Washington. Twice he ran unsuccessfully for public office — for mayor in 2006 and for Ward 4 council member the next year — before winning an at-large seat in 2008 under unusual circumstances. With longtime incumbent Carol Schwartz ousted in the Republican primary, Brown dropped his Democratic Party affiliation to take advantage of city laws reserving some at-large seats for other parties.
A 1997 guilty plea to a federal campaign finance violation along with business disputes before assuming office hinted at Brown’s troubled relationship with money. His dual salaries as council member and lobbyist — adding up to more than $365,000 in 2010, the most recent year for which disclosures were available — did not alleviate his financial woes.
In 2009, three foreclosure notices were recorded on Brown’s 4,000-square-foot Chevy Chase home — something Brown attributed to a filing error. In 2011, he paid a $14,263 tax bill after The Washington Post reported that he had been delinquent since 2009. Earlier that year, the Internal Revenue Service filed a lien against his home for unpaid taxes dating to 2004.