BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Former Senator Nathaniel Oaks, 71, has been sentenced 3-and-a-half years in prison with a $30,000 fine. He has 60 days to surrender himself.
US District Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced the former state senator to 42 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release for one count of wire fraud and one count of honest services wire fraud. Oaks must also pay the $30,000 fine and perform 80 hours of community service.
He declined to comment as he left court, where friends and former lawmakers spoke on his behalf. They asked the judge for leniency for Oaks.
“I’ve known him all his life, and I’ve known all sides of him.” Former Delegate Salima Marriott said. “That was my belief that he was entrapped.”
Judge Bennett berated Marriott in court, when she introduced the idea that federal agents had entrapped Oaks.
He then spoke at length about Oaks interfering in the 2015 FBI investigation by tipping off another target.
He said Oaks “singlehandedly knocked out a whole investigation.”
Addressing the fallen politician, the judge said, “It has weighed with me for months as I’ve waited for this day to sentence you.”
US Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur and Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field office, announced the sentence.
“Our democratic system relies on the integrity of our elected officials. Today’s sentence and our prosecution of former Maryland Senator Nathaniel Oaks demonstrate that we will hold accountable those elected officials who use their offices to enrich themselves, rather than serve the interests of their constituents.” Hur said.
According to the statements of facts in support of the plea agreement, an individual introduced Oaks to an FBI confidential human source, “Mike Henley,” who portrayed himself as an out-of-town businessperson interested in obtaining contacts in Baltimore. They met in September 2015.
The meeting took place at a restaurant in Pikesville, Md., and was recorded by Henley. During the meeting, Oaks offered to assist Henley with business development in Maryland.
After that meeting, Henley consenually recorded numerous telephone and in-person conversations with Oaks where they discussed possible development and business-related opportunities for Henley in Maryland.
One opportunity was a United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) project that Henley told Oaks he was interested in developing in the city. Oaks told Henley he wanted to help with the project.
According to the plea agreement, between the months of April 2016 and July 2016, Oak issued two letters on his official House of Delegates letterhead, containing materially false and fraudulent representations to a person he believed to be a HUD official to help Henley in obtaining federal grant funds from HUD. Henley paid Oaks $10,300 for his help.
According to the statement of facts in support of the plea agreement, on September 22, 2016, Henley paid Oaks $5,000 in exchange for Oaks’ agreement to file a bond bill request with the Maryland Department of Legislative Services (DLS) seeking $250,000 in state funds for the Project.
Oaks filed the bill request with DLS later that day. On November 21, 2016, Oaks forwarded an e-mail to Henley that had been sent to him by DLS. The e-mail attached the draft of the bill to establish a $250,000 bond to be used for the Project.
Prosecutors asked a federal judge for Oaks to spend five years in prison, which is less than the 8-10 years recommended by sentencing guidelines.
All the money paid to Oaks by Henley was supplied by the FBI and the meetings were recorded using audio/video recording equipment.
Oaks confessed to two FBI agents January 9, 2017 that he had accepted the first two payments from Henley in exchange for issuing the two letters to HUD on his official letterhead and that he knew the letters contained false statements to help Henley with his housing project. He then confessed that he had accepted the third payment from Henley.
Oaks agreed to cooperate with the FBI in an investigation of Person #1 for possible violations of federal criminal laws. Oaks covertly recorded his telephone conversations and in-person meetings with Person #1 beginning January 9, 2017 to March 30, 2017.
According to the plea agreement, on or about March 17, 2017, without recording or telling Person #1 about the FBI, Oaks approached Person #1 at a bar in Annapolis and told him, “What we talked about, just say no.”
On March 30, 2017, Oaks again approached Person #1 in a state government building hallways in Annapolis and said, “I’m going to ask you for something, just say no.” These statements were supposed to dissuade Person #1 from engaging in the activity Oaks and Person #1 had talked about in a recording earlier that day, which was the subject of the criminal investigation.
Because of Oak’s deliberate and intentional tipping off of Person #1, the covert investigation of Person #1 and possibly other politicians was no longer viable.