Democrat councilwoman pleads guilty to federal charges over vote-selling scheme: Report

An Ohio Democrat has pleaded guilty to federal charges related to a vote-selling scheme, the Washington Examiner reports. Forty-year-old Tamaya Dennard served on the Cincinnati City Council until she was forced to resign in March in the wake of her arrest on charges of honest services wire fraud.

As part of her plea deal, federal prosecutors agreed to drop additional charges of bribery and extortion against the councilwoman. According to the Examiner, she is facing thousands of dollars in fines and up to 20 years in prison.

Plea deal reached

According to local affiliate station Fox19, court documents filed Monday indicated that Dennard “knowingly devised or participated in a scheme to defraud the public of its right to the honest services of the public official through bribery or kickbacks.” The councilwoman had been accused of engaging in such acts between August and December of 2019 in a scheme that stemmed from the exchange of her council vote for money, according to NBC affiliate WLWT.

Those acts reportedly included a request from Dennard to an individual for two separate payments — one in the amount of $10,000 and one for $5,000 — to be used for what WLWT described as “personal expenses.” In exchange for the total of $15,000, Dennard agreed to — and did — vote favorably for the interests of the individual on certain matters under consideration by the council.

Local ABC affiliate WCPO reported that Dennard, who was the council’s president pro tem at the time, was arrested by the FBI on Feb. 25 and finally resigned under pressure on March 2.

On March 11, a grand jury handed down several indictments, including three counts of honest services wire fraud, two counts of bribery, and two counts of attempted extortion, which altogether could have netted her up to 50 years in federal prison, according to WCPO.

Though prosecutors dropped the bribery and extortion charges, WCPO noted that the federal plea deal doesn’t stop state or local authorities from pressing criminal charges against the former councilmember, as well.

Trading votes for money

According to court documents cited by FOX19, the individual with whom Dennard was involved in the scheme was an attorney, riverfront developer, and county commissioner named Tom Gableman. Of course, he also turned out to be a confidential human source (CHS) working on behalf of the FBI.

Text messages included in the documents shared by FOX19 showed that Dennard had texted Gableman in August. “If you are willing to meet with me,” she wrote, “I’m sure that I will be able to help you.”

FOX19 reported that Dennard then received two cashiers’ checks in September, and had asked for even more money from the source in exchange for “future help relating to official action for the benefit of CHS and CHS’s client was tied to additional payment from CHS,” according to the court documents.

According to FOX19, the documents stated further: “In exchange for and because of the money from the CHS, Dennard promised to and did provide favorable official action on behalf of CHS and CHS’s client as requested and as opportunities arose, including voting on matters before Cincinnati City Council for the benefit of CHS and CHS’s client.”

Neither Dennard nor her attorney responded to requests for comment from any of the local media outlets. It remains unclear when she will face sentencing.

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