Back in November, we learned that disgraced former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh had avoided a messy trial by pleading guilty to multiple counts of corruption and tax evasion. This all stemmed from her self-dealing scheme to “sell” hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books to people and businesses who had dealings with the University of Maryland Medical System, where Pugh sat as a board member.
At the time, I wondered what sort of deal she had cut with the prosecutors in exchange for the guilty plea. Whatever other information she provided to the state might not have turned out to be all that valuable because prosecutors aren’t letting her off with a slap on the wrist. They’re looking for nearly five years behind bars in addition to some hefty fines. (CBS Baltimore)
U.S. Attorney Robert Hur is recommending a nearly five-year prison sentence for former Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh in the “Healthy Holly” scandal.
In documents filed with the court, Hur called Pugh’s actions in the scheme “a recurring pattern of well-executed steps that built on each other, becoming more audacious and complex leading up to the mayoral election.”
The former mayor pleaded guilty in November to four charges, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and two counts of tax evasion.
The U.S. Attorney didn’t pull any punches in his sentencing request. He described a “rampant criminal deception to fulfill her ambitions” spanning much of Pugh’s political career, as well as a lack of remorse over the missed opportunities to “check her moral and ethical compass.”
Given how these things usually play out, it will be surprising if the judge gives Pugh the full 57 months that’s being requested. The prosecutors will typically ask for the maximum sentence they believe the judge might be reasonably willing to consider. Pugh’s attorneys have already requested a sentence of one year and one day, meaning she likely wouldn’t spend more than a couple of months behind bars. (Pugh has been free on her own recognizance through this process, so she won’t get any credit for time served.) If I had to guess, I’d say she’ll likely get something in between, perhaps in the range of two years.
Whatever the sentence turns out to be, it spells the end of yet another sad, corrupt chapter in the political history of Charm City. As we’ve discussed here in the past, Every mayor since Martin O’Malley left office has wound up in some form of trouble or another. Sheila Dixon was forced to resign after being arrested on charges of embezzlement. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake opted to not even run for a second term after the city descended into chaos on her watch following the Freddie Gray riots. And then Baltimore was saddled with Catherine Pugh.
To his credit, interim Mayor Jack Young has thus far seemed to be performing competently without any suggestions of corruption, but he said from the beginning that he would only serve out Pugh’s term and not run again. Baltimore’s residents had better look over the field carefully and pick someone with integrity this time around. The city currently looks more like a war zone than anything else and a strong, principled leader will be required to lead them out of the quagmire they’ve created.