6/9/2016Redflex Lobbyist Sentenced In Ohio Bribery Scandal
John Raphael, a former Redflex lobbyist, will spend 15 months in jail for his role in a red light camera bribery conspiracy.
US District Court Judge Michael H. Watson on Wednesday sentenced former Redflex lobbyist John P. Raphael to one year and three months in prison and a $5100 fine for his role in a bribery scheme in Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio. Raphael only admitted guilt to extorting the money from Redflex, and the government never attempted to prove the money Raphael gave to local politicians on behalf of Redflex was a bribe. Rapahel's attorney, S. Michael Miller, had used this fact to push for the lighter sentence. Since his client was charged with a lesser crime than the other Redflex co-conspirators, Miller insisted, the court should go easy on Raphael.
"So, as Mr. Raphael stands before the court for sentencing, let's be clear," Miller argued. "John Raphael is not charged with, has not pled guilty to, and has not engaged in bribery of elected public officials, nor has he engaged in acts of public corruption or a 'pay to play' scheme. The conduct with which he has been charged and to which he has pled guilty is interference with commerce by threats -- conduct which involves and relates solely to his interaction with Redflex Traffic Systems, a former client of Mr. Raphael's lobbying and consulting business."
The bribery scheme in Chicago, Illinois was far more significant, involving payoffs of $2 million to the former city deputy transportation commissioner. Raphael was only shown to have used $70,000 in political contributions to powerful city Democrats using Redflex money. Raphael wanted his sentence to be as light as the one imposed on the main force behind the bribery schemes, former Redflex executive vice president Aaron M. Rosenberg.
After pleading guilty to two counts of bribery, Rosenberg was sentenced to three months of home confinement, 120 hours of community service and ten hours of online ethics training. The easy sentence was his reward for cooperating with the investigation by turning over evidence of the wrongdoing of other Redflex officials, including his boss Karen Finley.
"Such 'cooperation' is the government's 'quid pro quo,' the 'get out of jail free card' that it gave to Rosenberg by way of immunity in Chicago and pretrial diversion in Columbus, even though Rosenberg admittedly engaged in multiple conspiracies to bribe elected public officials committed federal program fraud over a ten year time period in dozens of municipalities within, but not limited to, at least a minimum of fifteen states," Miller wrote.
Finley's sentencing has been delayed until August 10, but her deal with federal prosecutors limits her time behind bars to no more than five years. Federal prosecutors had asked Judge Smith to sentence Raphael to three years in jail and a $60,000 fine, citing his pattern of unethical conduct and his "barely accepting responsibility" for his conduct.
When the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed up at Raphael's door with a search warrant on June 3, 2015, Raphael denied involvement in the scheme to the investigators. Prosecutors also rejected the idea that Raphael was only a minor player in the Ohio scheme.
"The defendant [Raphael] not only profited handsomely by receiving monthly consulting payments and success fees from Redflex, he also paid tens of thousands of dollars in conduit campaign contributions in his own name without having to spend -- as the defendant puts it -- 'a single penny, nickel, dime or dollar,'" acting US attorney Benjamin C. Glassman wrote. "The defendant took full credit for the donations which, of course, benefited his lobbying business and allowed him to curry favor with the elected public officials."
Raphael will likely spend his time at the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution, a minimum security facility. He is not the first person who will spend time behind bars because of red light cameras. Shawn Brown, the former mayor of St. Peters, Missouri spent a year in prison for soliciting bribes from Redflex in 2006. A Washington, DC police officer was also busted for embezzling speed camera cash in 2008.