Lost in the drama over Michael A. Brown’s bribery plea was a notable revelation: Brown will most likely not be facing charges in the disappearance of $113,950 from his reelection campaign account last year.
U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said at a Monday news conference that the missing money was part of a “separate investigation” that is continuing. He added, referring to Brown, “We don’t anticipate charging him with anything related to that theft.”
Note the italicized “him,” meant to capture Machen’s emphasis on that word — as if to imply that there would be charges, but not against Brown.
Machen’s discussion of the case represents the first time any prosecutor has addressed the case for months, even as Brown last fall claimed vindication after personally meeting with prosecutors. The office would not comment at that time, and the missing money continued to dog Brown through his campaign, as it fueled doubts about his financial and management acumen.
So if Brown is not facing charges, who is?
Brown has blamed the theft on his former campaign treasurer, Hakim J. Sutton, saying Sutton had disbursed the money without his knowledge. But Sutton’s attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, has strongly disputed that notion. In September he said the money was paid to Sutton with Brown’s authorization and suggested Brown had a “morally depraved composition.”
“The bottom line,” Gordon said, “the checks were salary and the reason they were not reported is because of the express direction of Michael Brown.”
Gordon, in an interview Tuesday, stood by his client’s innocence, calling Brown’s guilty plea to the unrelated bribery charge “kind of an exoneration of Mr. Hakim Sutton.”
“I can’t imagine they’re going to charge Mr. Sutton with anything in light of the taint that’s on Michael Brown,” he said. “I don’t see the prudence of doing such a thing.”
Sutton said he has not been in contact with law enforcement authorities about the matter in “months.”
Whether or not Sutton is ultimately charged, the news that Brown’s claims of vindication were in fact somewhat well-founded is likely to raise questions about whether Machen acted properly in declining to clear Brown’s name ahead of the November election.
But the propriety of that decision is belied by this fact, laid out in Brown’s plea deal: By Oct. 9, the day he announced prosecutors had told him he was “not a target” in the campaign probe, Brown had already accepted $30,000 in cash payments from undercover federal agents.
Two days after proclaiming his vindication, Brown would speak on the phone with one of the agents, discussing how a key permit the agent had sought for his fake business had been granted.
“I don’t know what you did, man, but . . . that permit came through pretty quick,” the agent said.
Said Brown, “You’re damn, damn right it came through quick.”