Sulaimon Brown ordered to turn over grand jury documents to D.C. Council committee

September 15, 2011

Former mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown has until Monday to review documents he turned over to the FBI under a grand jury subpoena before making them available to a special D.C. Council committee investigating the Gray administration, a Superior Court judge ruled Thursday.

Last week, Brown responded to the council’s subpoena for the documents by disclosing the grand jury’s June subpoena and his Aug. 12 letter to Judge Judith N. Macaluso, in which he said the items were “no longer in my possession.”

The disclosure marked the first documented acknowledgment of a grand jury probe of Brown’s claims that he was paid and promised a city job to disparage then-mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) on behalf of the campaign for now-Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D).

Brown made his allegations this year after he was fired from his job as a $110,000-a-year special assistant in the Gray administration. The council’s committee, which is investigating the administrations’s hiring practices, issued a report last month concluding that Brown had been paid and promised a job but that there was no evidence linking the claims directly to Gray.

Although the committee released the report, it is still seeking Brown’s records to officially conclude its inquiry.

At Thursday’s court hearing, James W. Rudasill Jr., Brown’s attorney, said he had received a FedEx package and a letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen Chubin Epstein on Monday. He said the U.S. attorney’s office, which had transferred the documents to a disk, returned the originals to Brown although federal prosecutors retained some of Brown’s possessions. In an interview, Rudasill and Brown said that the unreturned items included a cellphone.

Brown and D.C. Council attorneys are to return to court for an evidentiary hearing Wednesday, the same day Brown is to appear in another courtroom to answer his landlord’s claim that he is squatting in his Northeast Washington apartment.

In a third case, Brown is scheduled to be in court next month for failure to obey a lawful order and driving on a suspended Maryland license after he was arrested early Monday during a traffic stop for a broken headlight.

On Thursday, Macaluso also ordered that Brown not “remove . . . or destroy any documents.”

Rudasill argued that the council committee could easily get the disk from the U.S. attorney’s office. “That may be so, but that’s not what the subpoena demands,” Macaluso said.

V. David Zvenyach, the council’s general counsel, also said that the committee’s subpoena is broader and is seeking more records, including bank statements and tax returns.

Rudasill said that Brown was concerned with “collusion” between the council and mayor’s office and was also worried that he may have to assert a Fifth Amendment privilege. The committee’s report recommended that Brown be prosecuted for making false statements, citing his sworn statement when he accepted his city job that he had not performed acts to secure his job.

Macaluso asked whether Brown was aware that consequences for failing to turn over the documents could include “putting people in jail until they comply.”

“It wouldn’t be punitive. It would just be to compel compliance,” she said.

Brown said in an interview that he’d be willing to go to jail if necessary. “I respect the judge, but it was a little presumptuous to threaten from the bench,” he said.

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