U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn sentenced former Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway to a little more than four and a half years in federal prison Friday afternoon. In August, Caraway admitted to taking almost $450,000 in bribes and kickbacks related to Dallas County School's ill-fated stop-arm camera program.
Lynn told Caraway she was disgusted by his actions.
"When it goes on for six years, it's hard to call it a mistake," she said, according to reporters in the courtroom.
Caraway told Lynn he pleaded guilty to save the city from a trial.
"My heart is heavy. These are the darkest days of my life. I did not plan to go out of politics this way ... I humiliated the city of Dallas. I humiliated my council colleagues," Caraway said, according to WFAA's Tanya Eiserer. "To the citizens of the city, I apologize to each and every one of you."
Caraway — who served parts of five non-consecutive terms on the City Council, in addition to a brief stint as mayor when Tom Leppert resigned to run for U.S. Senate in 2011 — accepted $450,000 from Robert Leonard and Slater Swartwood Sr., both former executives with Force Multiplier Solutions, the Louisiana-based technology company at the center of the stop-arm camera scandal. In exchange for the cash, Caraway influenced the City Council's vote on the stop-arm camera program, which enabled DCS to collect civil fines from those who drove past the signs without stopping.
The program, which DCS officials said would generate millions in revenue for the agency, flopped, contributing to the agency's eventual demise in 2017.
According to federal court documents, Leonard paid Caraway $390,000 in bogus real estate consulting fees for his help with the program. Leonard and Swartwood also drafted a false loan promissory note for Caraway in order to hide some of the cash they paid him, according to the factual resume of Caraway's plea.
"Early on, Caraway told Leonard that he supported the stop-arm program and asked Leonard to make political contributions," the factual resume said. "Leonard made these contributions because Caraway asked and knew that Caraway supported the stop-arm program."
The judge's decision to sentence Caraway on Friday came after federal prosecutors and Caraway's defense asked Lynn to hold off on punishing Caraway until this fall, when the former council member is expected to be the star witness in a separate corruption trial. Lynn denied the request but said prosecutors could ask that Caraway's sentence be reduced after he testifies, should they choose to do so.
Caraway must report to prison by May 5. After completing his sentence, Caraway will be under federal supervision for three additional years.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.