Now that her sentencing hearing is officially completed, Katrina Taylor-Parks will begin serving a 21-month federal prison sentence for accepting nearly $15,000 worth of bribes while working in Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration.
Taylor-Parks, who federal prosecutors say accepted cash, a cruise to Mexico, a vacation to Chicago and an expensive handbag from a prospective city contractor while serving as Reed’s deputy chief of staff, was supposed to be sentenced Jan. 14. But she collapsed in the federal courtroom just as U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones finished passing judgment: 21 months in federal prison, three years of supervised release, and $14,999 in restitution.
After being treated inside the courtroom for about a half hour, Taylor-Parks was wheeled out on a stretcher while complaining that she couldn’t breathe. The sentencing was rescheduled for Monday, so Jones could finish informing the 49-year-old Parks of her rights to appeal the sentence she will begin serving in the next 45 days.
Monday’s hearing took less than 10 minutes. Taylor-Parks sat alone outside of the locked courtroom for about a half hour before entering, reading from a well-worn Bible.
“I’m standing on it,” Parks said of her Bible.
After reiterating the sentence Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones went through Taylor-Parks’ limited appeal options. Defense attorney Jay Strongwater then asked for a private meeting with the judge and federal prosecutor Jeff Davis, which seemed to annoy Jones.
“This is an open courtroom,” Jones responded. “This is a public matter. You’re putting me in a difficult position.”
Strongwater then said he wanted to inform the judge privately about Taylor-Parks’ medical condition, and assure the court that she wasn’t “faking” at the last hearing. Strongwater said Taylor-Parks had suffered from a panic attack.
“I don’t think she was faking,” Jones said. “I heard her fall to the floor. If I thought she was faking, I wouldn’t have cleared the courtroom, called for a nurse and called 911.”
Taylor-Parks told a reporter before the hearing that she spent two days in the hospital, and credited braids she was wearing as cushioning her head during the fall. Taylor Parks said she doesn’t remember much of anything after she fell.
Unlike the previous hearing, where about 30 supporters jammed the courtroom, Taylor-Parks faced the judge in a courtroom void of any support, beyond her attorney. She told the AJC that she didn’t want to “bother” anyone with it so she kept the hearing date to herself.
As one of Mayor Reed’s top assistants, Taylor-Parks’ primary responsibility was to push the mayor’s agenda through City Council, including contracts the administration wanted to award.
During the first hearing, Davis told the judge that Taylor-Parks accepted bribes and gifts from a city vendor that the AJC has previously identified as Paul Marshall, a Marietta investment adviser who pleaded guilty in 2017 to defrauding investors.
In pleading to conspiracy to commit bribery, Taylor-Parks admitted to accepting $4,000 in payments from Marshall, who was awarded $100,000 in city business through a sole-source contract to install wireless service at Piedmont Park.
Marshall also controlled a company called FOGFuels, which won a City Council resolution authorizing the Reed administration to negotiate a sole-source contract to turn restaurant grease into biofuel. The contract was never fully consummated.
Taylor-Parks didn’t address the judge Monday, but had previously argued that she should be sentenced to house arrest because she is the sole caregiver for her ailing mother, who suffers from dementia. Taylor-Parks also said her cooperation with federal prosecutors investigating corruption at Atlanta City Hall should qualify her for house arrest.
Davis, who is one of the prosecutors in the City Hall corruption case, said the sentence imposed Monday is exactly what his office asked for.
“Let Ms. Taylor-Parks’ case be a warning to any and all public officials who abuse their power for personal gain, or for the benefit of their associates to the detriment of the taxpayers: we will thoroughly and appropriately investigate such criminal breaches of fiduciary duty and bring them to justice irrespective of the dollar amount of the ill-gotten gain,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said in a prepared statement after the hearing.