Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh will be headed to federal prison for three years.
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According to The Baltimore Sun, U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow showed little mercy in sentencing the Democratic politician after a years-long scheme that sold her self-published children’s books to nonprofits and foundations to promote her political career and fund her run for mayor.
“No one is more disappointed than me,” Pugh said. “I did turn a blind eye. I did, and sanctioned many things I should not have.”
But the Sun writes that Chasanow wasn’t so forgiving.
“I have yet frankly to hear any explanation that makes sense,” the judge said. “This was not a tiny mistake, lapse of judgment. This became a very large fraud. The nature and circumstances of this offense clearly I think are extremely, extremely serious.”
Prior to the trial, Pugh’s attorneys had suggested a sentence of 366 days. Prosecutors asked for nearly five years.
Pugh, 69, pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and tax evasion charges in November. The veteran Democratic politician was elected mayor in 2016 and resigned in May 2019 after authorities began investigating bulk sales of “Healthy Holly” books that netted her hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Prosecutors alleged that Pugh made approximately $800,000 through the sale of her books.
Prosecutors accused Pugh of double selling the books, keeping many for self-promotion purposes and failing to deliver them to institutions they were purchased for, including the Baltimore City Public Schools. Pugh used the proceeds to fund straw donations to her mayoral campaign and buy a new house, according to the sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors.
NPR reports that Pugh’s lawyers submitted a video ahead of Thursday’s trial which depicted the former Baltimore mayor’s apology.
“First, I want to apologize to the citizens, to young people, to partners, to my friends, everyone I’ve offended, everyone I’ve hurt and the city’s image by pleading guilty and by being involved in all of this that has led me here today,” she said.
“I accept responsibility. I accept total responsibility. I’ve pleaded guilty. I’m sorry,” she added.
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Pugh, with the assistance of longtime aide Gary Brown Jr., carefully carried out the scheme over more than seven years, starting when she was a Maryland state senator and into her tenure as Baltimore’s mayor. Her clients included the University of Maryland Medical System, health insurers and other organizations.
The Associated Press contributed to this article