Veteran civil rights activist and former state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, 70, was sentenced Monday to one year and one day in federal prison for tax, mail and wire fraud.
U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg reached her decision after hearing for four days from prosecution witnesses and Brooks supporters on how he should be punished.
Totenberg spoke for 90 minutes before announcing the sentence. In a measured, direct presentation she made note of all the good works Brooks accomplished in his lifetime of civil rights activism. She noted that his conviction has already cost Brooks “his most sacred of rights in his life: the right to vote and the right to participate in a jury.”
Federal prosecutors asked for two years in prison, which was below the sentencing guidelines that recommend 46 to 57 months in prison. U.S. Attorney John Horn said prosecutors were satisfied with the sentence.
“It’s incredibly difficult to contemplate him spending time in prison,” Horn said of Brooks. “The problem is that, as Judge Totenberg noted, his behavior is unacceptable, and so we feel strongly that the sentence conveys the wrongfulness of his conduct both to him and the community.”
Brooks’ lawyers, including former Gov. Roy Barnes, asked for probation. Getting a sentence of more than a year allows Brooks to be eligible to have 15 percent of his sentenced reduced for good behavior.
Totenberg noted that Brooks’ age played a role in setting the sentence. But said the charges were too serious for a sentence of probation only.
The day after resigning the legislative seat he has held for 35 years in April, Brooks pleaded guilty to tax fraud and no contest to five counts of mail and wire fraud in connection with a fraud charity he created purported to run a literacy program.
Brooks diverted to his personal bank account almost $1 million over more than 15 years funds that a labor union and four major corporations gave to Universal Humanities for Visions of Literacy or to the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, which he led for many years, for that groups voter registration and anti-violence efforts.
Barnes said they have not decided yet if they will appeal and that Brooks would have no comment until a Wednesday news conference at Moore’s Ford Bridge in Walton County where two black couples were lynched 69 years ago. Since 1968 Brooks, who was 10 months old when the murders took place, has been on a quest to name the killers.
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