Prosecutors ask judge to sentence former Maryland Sen. Nathaniel Oaks to 5 years in prison

Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to sentence former state Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks to five years in prison for taking money from an undercover FBI informant and agreeing to help him defraud a federal housing agency.

Prosecutors requested five years of imprisonment and three years of supervised release. That’s less than the eight to 10 years recommended by sentencing guidelines.

Oaks’ lawyers had asked for an 18-month prison sentence and submitted letters to the court from supporters, including five former state legislators. Oaks’ public defenders said the 71-year-old Oaks diligently served his constituents for decades and is now in poor health.

Oaks is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday after resigning from the Maryland General Assembly in March and pleading guilty to two felony fraud charges. The Democrat admitted to taking $15,300 from the FBI informant, who posed as a fictional out-of-town developer and enlisted him in a scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum this week that Oaks’ recorded conversations with the informant “reveal Oaks’ true character, which is that of a profoundly corrupt politician.”

Assistant U.S. attorneys Kathleen O. Gavin and Leo J. Wise also asked Judge Richard D. Bennett to fine Oaks up to $300,000, and to consider requiring that he reimburse the public defender’s office for the cost of representing him.

Prosecutors said in their memorandum that Oaks “fully embraced bribery and various corrupt practices as standard operating procedures in his life as a public official.”

In a filing from Oaks’ lawyers earlier this week, former state legislators Clarence Davis, Salima Siler Marriott, Gareth E. Murray, John A. Pica Jr. and Larry Young each wrote a letter asking the judge for leniency when sentencing Oaks.

Leonard Hamm, a former Baltimore Police commissioner who now heads Coppin State University’s police department, wrote that Oaks “is in his seventies, has a tainted legacy, and is a broken man.” Hamm said he could see no benefit to putting Oaks in prison.

Marvin L. "Doc" Cheatham, a former president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, asked the judge for leniency, pointing to Oaks’ decades of service to Baltimore. Oaks had represented the city for just over a year as a senator and for 28 years as a delegate.

Oaks’ lawyers, led by public defender James Wyda, wrote that Oaks “will emerge from prison an elderly man in rapidly declining health, with dim employment prospects, and shunned by the community in which he spent the majority of his adult life.”

Prosecutors said that while the letters in support of Oaks are likely sincere, most corrupt politicians would be able to “assemble an array of friends and political allies to tell the sentencing judge that they were really good people.”

A “strong sentence,” prosecutors wrote, “will send a very clear message to the community, and in particular, to all public officials that, in Maryland, corruption will not be tolerated and punishment will amount to more than just a slap on the wrist.”

nbogelburroughs@baltsun.com

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