Well, it isn’t justice, that’s for sure as those reading this will be paying to feed, clothe and house her under the for-profit corporation of the United States. Nevertheless, former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was sentenced to three years in federal prison for her “fraud scheme” involving “Healthy Holly” children’s books.
The Baltimore Sun reports:
Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who held elected offices in Baltimore for two decades and was elevated by voters to lead the city following the upheaval of 2015, was sentenced to three years in federal prison Thursday for a fraud scheme involving a children’s book series.
Pugh, 69, asked U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow for mercy and apologized in court “to anyone I have offended or hurt through my actions.”
“No one is more disappointed than me,” Pugh said. “I did turn a blind eye. I did, and sanctioned many things I should not have.”
In handing down the prison sentence, which was to be followed by three years of probation, Chasanow called Pugh’s crime “astounding.”
“I have yet frankly to hear any explanation that makes sense,” the judge said. “This was not a tiny mistake, lapse of judgment. This became a very large fraud. The nature and circumstances of this offense clearly I think are extremely, extremely serious.”
Pugh’s political fall began in March when The Baltimore Sun revealed she had entered into a no-bid deal with the University of Maryland Medical System, where Pugh sat on the board of directors, to buy 100,000 copies of her sloppily self-published “Healthy Holly” books for $500,000. She later resigned from the board and as mayor amid multiple investigations into her finances and the book sales. In total, she netted more than $850,000, prosecutors say.
At the same time, she failed to print thousands of copies, double-sold thousands more and took many others to use for self-promotion, according to prosecutors.
Chasanow ordered Pugh to pay restitution of $400,000 to the medical system and nearly $12,000 to the Maryland Auto Insurance Fund, which also paid Pugh for books. She also will have to forfeit nearly $670,000, including her Ashburton home and $17,800 in her campaign account. Pugh has also agreed that all copies of “Healthy Holly” in government custody will be destroyed.
The judge spoke of the deterrent Pugh’s sentence could serve for other elected officials.
“I disagree that the length of the sentence has no impact on others out there who might be thinking about using or abusing their positions of trust,” Chasanow said.
After the sentence was handed down, Pugh’s supporters came to courtroom floor to console her.
“This became a very large fraud,” Chasanow said.
Judge Deborah Chasanow said this was not a tiny mistake or lapse in judgement. “This became a very large fraud.” She called the disruption to the city “drastic”; impact on Baltimore “very tragic”.
— Paul Gessler (@PaulGessler) February 27, 2020
Pugh provided a video issuing an apology prior to the sentencing, knowing the inevitable.
“I know better who I am, but I also know where I am and I accept responsibility, I accept total responsibility,” Pugh said. “I pled guilty. I’m sorry. I don’t know any other words that could be stronger. I’m so sorry, I really am sorry.”
“It’s created such a ringing negativity on our city. And I know better who I am. But also I know here I am right now. And I accept responsibility. I accept total responsibility. I’ve pleaded guilty and I’m sorry,” she said.
“I just want to apologize to the citizens, to young people, to partners, my friends — everyone I’ve offended, everyone I’ve hurt and the city’s image, by pleading guilty and being a part of all of this that had led me here today,” Pugh said.
At the end of the video, Pugh sits with her hands crossed in front of her mouth as a voiceover plays: “When I think about me and my capacity and my capabilities and all the things I’ve been able to do, I said, ‘How do you end up here? I mean how do you mess this up?’ I messed up, I really messed up. I’m so sorry, I really am sorry.”
OK, fair enough. She is willing to admit her wrongdoing and apologized.
Now the sentence will be carried out, but again, it won’t just be Pugh paying for her crimes. Taxpayers will pay for them too with their property and livelihoods being held ransom to make sure that Pugh gets fed, clothed and housed for the time she will spend in federal prison.
Pugh pleaded guilty in November to charges of tax evasion and conspiracy to defrauding the U.S. Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of nearly five years in prison; Pugh’s team recommends she spend one year and one day behind bars.
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