Katrina Taylor-Parks, a top aide to former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, was in the middle of being sentenced for taking bribes from a vendor when she collapsed and was taken by ambulance to a hospital Monday afternoon.
The chaotic interruption in federal court left uncertain when Reed’s former deputy chief of staff will officially be sentenced and overshadowed new information revealed during the nearly hour-long hearing.
What happened in court?
Taylor-Parks faced five years in prison. Her attorneys sought no or limited prison time, while federal prosecutors sought 21 months. U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones stuck with prosecutors’ recommended prison sentence and ordered her to serve three years on supervised release upon completion of her confinement and to pay restitution of about $15,000. During the sentencing Taylor-Parks gasped, then fell to the floor. Her medical condition hasn’t been made public.
Will Taylor-Parks have another sentencing hearing?
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Yes. U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said a hearing will be rescheduled once Taylor-Parks recovers. The date of that hearing hadn’t been set as of Tuesday afternoon. Both sides say the sentence is unlikely to change as a result of what happened on Monday.
What new information was revealed?
Taylor-Parks previously admitted to taking $4,000 from an unidentified city vendor, but prosecutors revealed she actually accepted about $15,000 in cash and gifts, including a Louis Vuitton handbag, a trip to Chicago and a cruise to Mexico. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has identified the vendor as a wireless internet company that obtained a sole-source contract at Piedmont Park and was controlled by Paul Marshall, a Marietta investment adviser who pleaded guilty in 2017 to defrauding investors.
Marshall also controlled a company called FOGFuels that 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 helped the vendor arrange meetings with high-ranking city officials and introduced him to an unnamed member of City Council.
Taylor-Parks’ attorney, Jay Strongwater, said his client and Marshall attended graduate school together at Georgia Tech and she agreed to help Marshall. Marshall turned on Taylor-Parks following his indictment.
What information has Taylor-Parks provided to investigators?
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Davis said Taylor-Parks met with investigators on 16 occasions and took part in four interviews by phone. She also provided the FBI with the contents of two smartphones. Like the city’s former chief purchasing officer, Adam Smith, who also pleaded guilty to taking bribes and is currently serving a prison sentence, Taylor-Parks recorded conversations with others. Prosecutors declined to detail the contents of those 11 conversations.
It does not appear she provided investigators any direct knowledge of lawbreaking. Taylor-Parks detailed the inner workings of City Hall contracting, including ways the system could be circumvented, and examples of suspicious behavior, Strongwater said. He said his client’s cooperation advanced the federal probe.
Georgia State University law professor Jessica Gabel Cino said people who spoke by phone or in-person with Taylor-Parks should be worried. But prosecutors’ insistence on prison time indicates Taylor-Parks didn’t have all the information the government wanted, she said.
“She’s providing the dots, but the dots aren’t connected,” Cino said. “That’s what the prosecution wants. They want who did it, when did they do it and what was the illegal act.”
Where does the federal investigation stand?
The probe, which dates to at least 2015, has peered into snow removal and sidewalk construction contracts. Investigators are known to be probing contracts at the Atlanta airport and the city’s watershed department. Prosecutors also have issued subpoenas for records related to spending on city credit cards, travel by members of the mayor’s office under Reed and requests for paid leave. Pak said on Monday, “we are not done.”