A two-year investigation of real-estate fraud and witness tampering resulted this week in a prison sentence for Daniel Jason Brown, and a judge's rebuke of state's attorney candidate John Mattingly.
Mattingly (D) did not attend his real-estate partner's sentencing hearing.
"Mr. Brown and I discussed it," Mattingly said that afternoon. "We felt the most important thing to do today was campaign."
Brown, arriving in court in a black suit, traded his leather shoes after sentencing for a pair of sneakers that his family brought to the proceeding, along with a pair of flip-flops, before he was taken to the county jail.
Moments earlier, a judge had sentenced Brown to two years in prison on a conviction for conspiring to unlawfully affix a public seal to a deed, to be followed by six months in jail from his acknowledgment of evidence that he conspired to influence a witness in a 2007 shooting case. The judge also imposed a concurrent 30-day jail sentence from Brown's guilty plea to performing home improvement work without a license.
As he paced back and forth in the courtroom, waiting for law officers to escort him through a door to a holding cell, Brown said that he'd expected to receive a six-month sentence with work-release privileges. That was the sentence recommended by a prosecutor at the hearing. "Any time is too much, to me," Brown said before he sat down in a chair by the door and wiped away a tear.
Trial jurors and a court-appointed prosecutor previously cleared John Mattingly of all charges in three criminal indictments, but Prince George's Circuit Judge Sean Wallace said otherwise as he meted out Brown's penalty in a St. Mary's courtroom.
"I frankly don't think you were the instigator in any of these things, but you played a major role," Wallace said, and he barred Brown from having any contact with Mattingly after Brown is released from custody and begins five years of supervised probation.
"The two of you together did operate your business corruptly," the judge said, "in an effort to cheat other people."
Mattingly said Wednesday that the judge's comments about him ran contrary to earlier findings in Mattingly's favor by the court-appointed prosecutor, trial jurors and Maryland's attorney grievance commission.
"Frankly, he's wrong," Mattingly said.
Brown's conviction for the notary violation stemmed from visits that he and Mattingly made to Baltimore to purchase the interests of three women in property in St. Mary's. Testimony at a trial for Brown and Mattingly concerned efforts to get a notary to officiate the documents, which were signed outside of her presence.
"You were trying to distance yourself from whatever you and Mr. Mattingly did with those ladies up in Baltimore," Wallace told Brown. "You could have notarized it. As a notary, you're in a position of public trust."
Brown's guilty plea to the home-improvement violation arose from unfinished work on the home of a woman who had paid for those services with money that Mattingly got for her as her attorney in the settlement of a civil action from her husband's death.
The charges against Brown and Mattingly initially were obtained by St. Mary's Assistant State's Attorney Daniel White. St. Mary's State's Attorney Richard D. Fritz (R), White's boss and Mattingly's opponent in next month's general election, ultimately requested that the case be handled by Prince George's Assistant State's Attorney Isabel Cumming. She sat by in court Wednesday as Renee Joy, another assistant Prince George's prosecutor, spoke of Brown's conduct.
"His work ethic was proven to be shortcuts and scamming innocent people to line his own pockets," Joy said. "He thinks that he's above the law."
In the home-improvement case, Joy said, "Mr. Brown was showing the epitome of greed. He was taking advantage of an elderly woman who was an amputee and had recently lost her husband."
Public defender John Getz, Brown's lawyer, said, "There's no question that Mr. Brown has taken shortcuts. He's a terrible businessman. I don't think he ever had any specific intent to scam."
Brown has agreed to pay $30,000 in restitution to the homeowner's heirs.
The witness-tampering charge arose from the handling of $20,000 that Terry Anthony Clarke provided after his arrest on charging papers alleging he shot at young hunters retrieving birds from a pond near St. Andrew's Church Road.
Brown's plea agreement in the witness-tampering case states that Clarke obtained the money at Mattingly's suggestion, for Mattingly to hold for "various expenses," and that Brown told one hunter's mother and a witness that they could have some of the money. Clarke has not been sentenced from his guilty pleas to misdemeanor assault and weapons charges in the shooting case.
"Our [legal] system depends upon the truth of testimony," Wallace said, adding that offering the money was not a lawful way to seek a compromise in the assault case.
Mattingly said of Brown's sentence, "He doesn't deserve what happened to him. It's unfortunate that he got caught up in politics."
Earlier on Wednesday, 36-year-old Robert Henry Short III of Mechanicsville pleaded guilty to a felony cocaine charge, and conspiring with Brown and Mattingly to commit perjury through a false affidavit. White alleged in court that Brown and Mattingly asked Short last year to swear he lived in a trailer owned by Mattingly, which would help Mattingly appeal a ruling that he could not renovate the trailer. Short faces three years in the local jail through the plea agreement calling for him to cooperate with authorities, who have thus far reported no charges against Brown or Mattingly in the matter.
"The investigation continues," White said Thursday at the courthouse.
Mattingly, 41, steadfastly has maintained that the entire investigation was launched to discredit his bid in next month's election to unseat Fritz. Mattingly denied the allegations made in court about Short and the affidavit.
"It's just another of Mr. Fritz's shenanigans," Mattingly said. "I can see why [Short] would want to ingratiate himself with the Fritz regime."