Because of the seriousness of the bribery scheme in which she was involved, former Cincinnati Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard should go to federal prison for 24 to 30 months, prosecutors recommended Friday in their sentencing memorandum.
Prosecutors’ recommendation followed Dennard’s request on Thursday that she be allowed to serve whatever sentence under house arrest. Prosecutors said a prison sentence is appropriate because it “demoralizes the public and undermines confidence in the integrity of our democracy.”
“Here, Dennard’s flagrant conduct not only defrauded the public of its right to honest services, but undermined faith in government and reaffirmed existing doubt about whether elected officials act in the public’s best interest,” wrote Emily Glatfelter and Matthew Singer, the assistant U.S. attorneys who prosecuted the case.
“Because of the societal damage caused by public corruption, the goal of promoting general deterrence weighs heavily at sentencing.”
Dennard pleaded guilty on June 19 to a scheme to obtain $15,000 from Frost Brown Todd attorney Tom Gabelman in connection with her vote on a measure that allowed a music venue to be built at the Banks.
Dennard’s criminal conduct was driven by poor financial judgment and management, Dennard said in a letter to the judge.
But prosecutors called her conduct “brazen” and noted that she took a “lavish” $4,000 vacation after receiving the initial bribe.
“[A]fter receiving $5,000 cash, Dennard booked a trip to Florida and blew most of the bribe proceeds on a lavish vacation,” they wrote. “Her bank records indicate that she could not have paid for the Florida trip without the $5,000 in bribe money.”
Dennard’s salary was $60,645 a year as a council member.
Dennard’s lawyers argued that the $15,000 bribe she took was a relatively small amount, but prosecutors cited other cases where a public officials were given prison time for less money, including a 2014 case where an official got 33-month sentence for accepting $10,000 in bribes and a 1-year sentence in 2012 for accepting $1,200 in bribes.
[C]ourts generally impose a sentence of imprisonment for public official bribery cases, even where the dollar amount is small,” prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors acknowledged that the judge “faces a challenging task” because the pre-sentence report prepared by the U.S. Probation Office “sets forth a number of challenges Dennard faced throughout her life, which the court should consider in determining an appropriate sentence.”
“To her credit, Dennard overcame obstacles prior to her election to Cincinnati City Council, and, according to the overwhelmingly positive letters submitted on her behalf, rose to become a leader in the community, using her talents to attempt positive change,” prosecutors wrote. “On the other hand, this does little to mitigate Dennard’s criminal violation of the public’s trust after overcoming those obstacles. Moreover, Dennard defrauded the same community she was elected to serve.
“Indeed, that is the saddest, and most “demoralizing,” part of this case—although Dennard positioned herself to serve her community with integrity, she chose illicit payments over honest service.”
U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott, who has the power to depart from the guidelines, has scheduled Dennard’s sentence for 10 a.m. Nov. 24.