The trial of a longtime Dorothy Brown worker accused of lying to a federal grand jury began Tuesday, with prosecutors making one thing abundantly clear.
The feds in 2015 had their sights set on Brown, the clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
That fact came up repeatedly as Beena Patel’s trial got underway at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. Jurors heard about it from two veteran FBI agents who worked the case. And they heard about it from a prosecutor in opening statements.
In fact, by the middle of 2015, Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather McShain said, the FBI and a grand jury were “well over a year into an investigation of Dorothy Brown” over claims that Brown had been selling jobs, promotions and pay raises inside her office.
Brown has not been charged with any crime. Meanwhile, Patel faces three counts of lying to the grand jury. She is accused of telling multiple lies on two occasions to the panel that was investigating the allegations against Brown.
That’s what Patel’s trial is really about, Brown attorney Vadim Glozman said later.
“The allegations against Beena Patel have nothing to do with Ms. Brown,” Glozman said Tuesday.
Glozman said Brown “committed no wrongdoing during her entire tenure as clerk of the Circuit Court.” Likewise, Patel attorney Walter Jones Jr. told jurors that his client “emphatically denies the charges.” He called the testimony that led to Patel’s indictment in 2017 “so insignificant” and not material to the investigation.
The indictment alleges Patel lied to the grand jury on Oct. 15, 2015, and July 14, 2016. She allegedly lied when she claimed not to know if a colleague, Sivasubramani Rajaram, had spoken to law enforcement or testified before the grand jury investigating Brown. She is also accused of lying about sales within the clerk’s office of tickets to Brown’s campaign fundraisers, as well as her efforts in 2015 to help another colleague, Pinal Patel, get a promotion.
Rajaram admitted in 2016 that he lied to the grand jury in October 2015. U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman gave him three years of probation.
Prosecutors have also accused Rajaram of landing his job at the clerk’s office by loaning $15,000 to a business tied to Brown and her husband known as Goat Masters. Rajaram told the grand jury he actually gave that money to a “well-connected millionaire” and learned only later that the millionaire had given it to Goat Masters, records show.
This week’s trial of Beena Patel is expected to feature recordings, text messages and the testimony of other employees of the clerk’s office. Government witness lists do not include the names of Brown nor her husband, Benton Cook III.
Following opening statements Tuesday, jurors heard from FBI special agents Steven Noldin and Pamela McCarthy. The agents explained their work on the Brown investigation, including their interviews with Pinal Patel and Rajaram, and the seizure of cell phones belonging to Beena Patel and Rajaram in October 2015.
The feds also seized Brown’s cell phone at the time, court records show.