Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Former Cincinnati council member Tamaya Dennard gets 18 months prison in corruption case

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Former Cincinnati City Council Member Tamaya Dennard was sentenced on Tuesday for her part in what federal authorities say is a “culture of corruption” at City Hall.

Dennard, 41, received a sentence of 18 months in prison for a wire fraud charge, Judge Susan Dlott announced.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she won’t report to prison until March 1, 2021. Her sentence will be carried out at an all-women federal facility in West Virginia.

She will also pay a $15,000 money judgment against her and be under supervised for three years once the prison sentence is finished, according to David M. DeVillers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.

Originally Dennard faced more charges than just wire fraud. The bribery and attempted extortion charges were dropped.

She was arrested in February and has admitted to selling her vote for money.

Dennard pleaded guilty in June and said she received $15,000 from an attorney for the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, according to court documents. In return, Dennard promised and provided favorable action on behalf of the attorney and his clients.

“Dennard chose to enrich herself at the expense of the public,” DeVillers said. “In doing so, she violated the public’s trust in her and also undermined our democratic values and institutions. She also earned herself time in federal prison.”

Probation officials recommended a sentence of 24 to 30 months in prison, but Dennard’s attorney was seeking home confinement instead, in part due to COVID-19 fears, court records show.

“I have never seen a defendant like you during my time on the bench,” Judge Dlott said Tuesday. “It’s hard to reconcile the bribery versus the fact that you have done so much good.”

Dennard’s attorney says she has suffered enough.

“She has been publicly humiliated,” Dennard’s attorney, Stephanie Kessler, wrote. “Not all defendants see their photo and their worst choices splashed over the media. It is difficult to deal with. She has lost friends and supporters.”

Dennard is one of three Cincinnati council members arrested on corruption charges this year amid a federal investigation that began in 2018.

Jeff Pastor was arrested Nov. 10 and P.G. Sittenfeld was arrested Nov. 19.

Both are accused of selling votes for a development project in the city.

They have pleaded not guilty and are free on their own recognizance,

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has requested the Ohio Supreme Court begin suspension proceedings against both men.

Pastor agreed Friday to take a voluntary suspension, Yost announced Monday.

The 36-year-old will continue to collect his $65,000 annual salary and carry medical benefits on himself and his pregnant wife and four children, FOX19 NOW has confirmed.

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman is Pastor’s designee to select his replacement.

Pastor also faces removal from office altogether via a voter-backed lawsuit filed last week, but it’s not clear now if that will move forward since he agreed to the voluntary suspension.

So far, Sittenfeld shows no signs of stepping down or abandoning his candidacy in the 2021 mayor’s race.

He appears to be gearing up for a legal battle with the U.S. Department of Justice.

In both a written statement and a video posted to social media, the 36-year-old Democrat has declared his innocence and vowed to” fight” what he says are untrue accusations.

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