Former Carson Mayor Sentenced in Bribery Case
Former Carson Mayor Daryl Sweeney was sentenced to nearly six years in prison and received a tongue-lashing Monday for serving as ringleader in a bribery scandal involving millions of dollars in municipal contracts.
“I don’t think this was about losing your way or taking a wrong turn. You’re nothing more than a thief,” U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson told the 47-year-old former chief of staff to Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry.
“You might as well have taken a gun and gone down to City Hall and stuck it in their ear,” Anderson said.
Sweeney, who served on the Carson City Council, a part-time post, from 1997 until 2003, was one of 10 charged in the wide-ranging bribery case. All have pleaded guilty.
Addressing the court before sentencing, Sweeney expressed remorse and apologized to his family, the court, the government, his church, the people of Carson and his political supporters.
Defense attorney Richard Steingard asked Anderson to sentence his client to 30 months behind bars, but the judge would have none of it, recalling Sweeney’s secretly recorded comment to a fellow councilman that bribery “is a long-term opportunity.”
“The operative word is ‘long-term,’” said Anderson, “and you are going to have a long time to think about this.”
Still, Sweeney did benefit from a plea agreement he negotiated with prosecutors last year, in which he pleaded guilty to 15 criminal counts and resigned as mayor. He could have been sentenced to up to 135 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, but Assistant U.S. Atty. Thomas S. McConville recommended 71 months because of Sweeney’s assistance.
According to the prosecution, Sweeney provided information that led to the indictment and conviction on bribery charges of Keith McDonald, former head of the powerful West Basin Municipal Water District.
Sweeney also was credited with assisting the government on other unspecified political corruption investigations.
Anderson agreed to follow the prosecution’s sentencing recommendation.
The largest of the bribery schemes involved the awarding of a $60-million trash-hauling contract to Browning Ferris Industries in exchange for nearly $600,000 in payments that were supposed to be shared by Sweeney, fellow council members Manuel Ontal and Raunda Frank and Sweeney’s personal attorney and middleman, Robert Dennis Pryce Jr. Also involved were two Browning Ferris representatives.
Ontal, who had admitted involvement in another bribery case, was cooperating with authorities at the time and wore a concealed tape recorder in meetings with other conspirators.
In February 2002, the three council members, comprising a council majority, voted to give BFI the long-term waste-hauling contract even though it was the highest bidder. Pryce received $75,000 from the BFI employees and shared some of it with Sweeney, Frank and Ontal, according to admissions by the defendants.
The Carson City Council rescinded the contract in April 2002 after a federal grand jury returned an indictment against the defendants.
In addition to his prison sentence, Sweeney was ordered to pay $20,000 restitution to the city of Carson.
He is scheduled to surrender to authorities Feb. 14.
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