Prosecutors are urging a Baton Rouge federal judge to reject a bid by imprisoned former White Castle Mayor Maurice Brown to have his 10-year prison term for corruption thrown out.
Brown, who is incarcerated at a federal prison in Pensacola, Florida, claims he deserves relief because lawyer Bruce Craft, who represented Brown, was disbarred more than two years after Brown’s 2011 trial.
Federal prosecutors contend the disbarment had nothing to do with Craft’s conduct in Brown’s case.
Brown was found guilty in March 2011 on federal racketeering and fraud charges that accused him of accepting more than $5,000 in professional sports tickets, a hotel stay and cash from federal investigators posing as corrupt businessmen.
The sting, dubbed Operation Blighted Officials, used undercover FBI agents and operatives to seek municipal contracts in the Baton Rouge area for a fictional garbage-can-cleaning service known as Cifer 5000.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Brown’s conviction in April 2013, and it became final three months later when he did not ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review it.
The Louisiana Supreme Court permanently disbarred Craft in September 2013.
Brown filed a motion in December to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence, but Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Patricia Jones says the motion was filed too late — more than a year after his conviction became final in July 2013.
Jones, in a court-filed memorandum opposing Brown’s motion, argues the motion should be denied without a hearing.
“(Brown’s) claims relate to his counsel’s performance at his trial and sentencing. The fact that defense counsel voluntarily agreed to discipline by the bar for his lack of diligence in other cases says nothing about how he performed in defendant’s case,” she argues.
Jones says Brown also failed to explain why he did not discover Craft’s resignation for more than a year. The Supreme Court’s granting of the permanent resignation was publicly announced Sept. 18, 2013, but Brown’s motion wasn’t filed until Dec. 12 of last year.
Operation Blighted Officials also netted the convictions of former St. Gabriel Mayor George Grace Sr., ex-New Roads Mayor T.A. “Tommy” Nelson Jr. and former Port Allen Mayor Derek Lewis. Grace, Nelson and Lewis were given prison terms of 20 years, 10 years and 40 months, respectively.
In addition, former Port Allen Police Chief Frederick Smith was ordered to prison for more than seven years, and ex-Port Allen Councilman Johnny Johnson was sent to a halfway house for six months and put on probation for two years.
Maurice Brown’s brother, White Castle Police Chief Mario Brown, was found not guilty in 2011.