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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Oaks’ lawyers reiterate request for 18-month sentence

Defense attorneys representing disgraced former state Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks are challenging prosecutors’ request for a five-year prison sentence.

Former Sen. Nat Oaks in 2017. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Former Sen. Nat Oaks in 2017. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

In a memo filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Oaks’ public defenders argue the Baltimore Democrat should be given a lesser sentence — about 18 months — because his crimes are not as egregious as those of two other Maryland officials convicted of federal corruption charges: former state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell and former Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson.

“In consideration of the scope, nature, and personal benefit of the criminal conduct, Bromwell and Johnson are simply on another level from Mr. Oaks, and a substantial difference in their respective sentences is more than warranted,” Lucius T. Outlaw III wrote in a five-page memo that included another 45 pages of exhibits.

Outlaw, in his memo, wrote that the $15,300 in payments received from an informant posing as a developer is “dwarfed” by the $275,000 in cash and benefits received by Bromwell and the $400,000 accepted by Johnson.

The memo is the latest in a spate of such filings in the last week leading up to Oaks’ sentencing hearing Tuesday.

In one filing, reported earlier this week by The Baltimore Sun, defense attorneys argued for a lesser sentence citing Oaks’ declining health. The 175-page document also contains letters from current and former public officials asking for leniency.

Both the prosecution and defense filings from earlier this week have been sealed. The Daily Record has asked a federal judge to unseal the documents.

Oaks, 71, pleaded guilty in late March to one count each of wire fraud and honest services fraud related to an investigation involving a confidential informant for the FBI who posed as a developer.

Oaks, who was a member of the House of Delegates at the time of the investigation, was introduced to the informant, who went by the name Mike Henley, in September 2015.

The lawmaker and developer spoke on a number of occasions about housing developments in Oaks’ district. Henley asked Oaks to speak to a fictitious official with the federal Department of  Housing and Urban Development, offering him a cash payment to do so.

Oaks wrote a letter on Henley’s behalf and sponsored a state bond bill.

Oaks openly worried that the FBI was monitoring his conversations and made Henley buy him a burner cellphone. Conversations on the phone and in person were frequently in code, with Oaks using hand signals or the word “lollipop” to refer to the amount he wanted to be paid. Prosecutors wrote that each “lollipop” represented a sum of $1,000.

Henley paid Oaks a total of $15,300 as part of the scheme, as originally charged in 2017.

The $5,000 paid by Oaks was part of the plea agreement entered into earlier this year. A federal judge could order additional payments if other proceeds or property could be traced to crimes.

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