After Bribery Conviction, Pennsylvania Democratic Lawmaker Resigns 'Under Protest'
By Angela Couloumbis
Democratic state Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown resigned from office Tuesday, saying she was leaving public service “under protest” as she appeals her conviction on bribery and other public corruption charges.
In her resignation letter, the Philadelphia Democrat highlighted the words of the judge who last month sentenced her to 23-months of probation, noting that he had expressed serious concerns about the undercover sting investigation that led to her political downfall.
Nonetheless, Brown wrote, she recognized that the state Constitution prohibits anyone convicted of bribery, perjury and other “infamous crime” from serving in the legislature.
“The Court’s finding that the investigation and prosecution carried overtones of racism and political animus is only the first step in the ultimate vindication of my God-given and constitutional right to be treated fairly under the law," Brown, 52, wrote in the letter submitted to House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny).
She added: “Emboldened by the civil rights giants that have gone before me and with the love and support of my family and friends, I live to fight another day against injustice and racism."
Brown, who was reelected last month to another two-year term, had faced mounting pressure to leave public office. Typically, public officials who are convicted of corruption crimes step down on the day they are sentenced.
Brown, who was sentenced on Nov. 30, had not publicly explained her decision to remain in office. She had signaled that she would not seek to be seated in the House when lawmakers return to the Capitol on Jan. 1 to be sworn into office - this after her Republican and Democratic colleagues indicated that they would vote to prevent her from taking the oath of office.
Brown’s resignation Tuesday followed a legal maneuver by prosecutors to force her out.
Late last week, Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo, whose office prosecuted Brown, asked the trial judge in her case to amend her probation sentence to require her to resign within 24 hours, and force her to repay any salary or expense reimbursement she received after being sentenced.
Brown had not been paid for the month of December, according to House officials.
On Monday, Brown’s lawyers asked her trial judge, Dauphin County Scott Evans, to throw out her conviction, citing the judge’s own words at her sentencing that the investigation that snared her and other Philadelphia Democrats was “troubling” and laden with “racial overtones.”