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Feds: Worker in Dorothy Brown’s office lied and ground justice ‘to a halt’

Prosecutors are asking Beena Patel to be sentenced to 30 months in prison for lying to a grand jury.

Dorothy Brown
Dorothy Brown
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Federal prosecutors want a judge to send a longtime Dorothy Brown worker to prison for more than two years after they said she lied to a grand jury, “threw a wrench in the wheels of justice and ground them to a halt.”

They also said the lies Beena Patel told the grand jury investigating job-selling allegations in the office of Brown, the clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, “directly impacted the government’s ability to charge those most culpable in the illegal activity.”

It’s been four years since the FBI seized a cell phone from Brown. Brown still denies wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime. But Patel’s trial earlier this year made clear Brown had been squarely in the feds’ sights.

By mid-2015, Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather McShain said at trial, the FBI and a grand jury were “well over a year into an investigation of Dorothy Brown” over allegations that Brown had been selling jobs, promotions and pay raises inside her office.

Patel derailed that investigation by lying repeatedly to the grand jury, the feds say. A trial jury convicted Patel in April. Prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Sara Ellis to sentence Patel to 30 months in prison in a memo filed Tuesday.

The feds’ investigation centered in part around a $15,000 payment by Sivasubramani Rajaram allegedly to land a job at the clerk’s office. The feds say Rajaram made a $5,000 cash payment at a meeting at the Corner Bakery across from the Daley Center. But when prosecutors asked Patel about that meeting in front of the grand jury, they said Patel gave misleading answers.

“She attempted to minimize her own involvement by stating that Rajaram slid the envelope containing $5,000 in cash directly to the Clerk,” McShain wrote in Tuesday’s memo.

Prosecutors said it was Patel who accepted the cash.

“By then, her testimony had been so misleading and had contradicted itself in so many respects that it was difficult for the grand jury to credit or follow anything that she said,” McShain wrote. McShain said the lies, “successfully derailed the grand jury’s investigation of this bribe payment.”

Patel’s defense attorneys have filed their own memo in advance of her sentencing Tuesday but they persuaded the judge to keep it under seal.

Rajaram was sentenced in 2017 to probation in his own perjury case. But McShain wrote in the memo that Rajaram’s sentence was due to his health. She belittled the notion that Patel should receive the same sentence.

“A sentence of probation will send a message to future witnesses in public corruption cases that it is okay to lie under oath because, even if you get successfully prosecuted, you will still walk free,” McShain wrote.