Prosecutors say lies by deputy court clerk kept Dorothy Brown from being charged with corruption

Chuck Goudie Image
Thursday, November 28, 2019
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Former Deputy Cook County Court Clerk Beena Patel (left, in yellow) lied to a grand jury to protect her boss, Clerk of the Court Dorothy Brown, according to federal prosecutors.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It has been one of Cook County's most vexing legal questions: Why hasn't Clerk of the Court Dorothy Brown faced corruption charges, after several of her top aides were convicted following a 6-year investigation during which FBI agents even seized Brown's cell phone?

The answer is in a new court document filed on Wednesday. Grand jury testimony by a top deputy clerk was so laden with lies that it "affected the government's ability to file charges against Dorothy Brown."

That is the conclusion of a United States Probation Department report on ex-deputy court clerk Beena Patel, who is to be sentenced next month for perjury.

Federal prosecutors are asking for an enhanced sentence of 2 years for Ms. Patel because, they maintain, her lies impeded the outcome of the corruption investigation.

The FBI investigation of the clerk's office zeroed in on allegations that jobs and advancement could be bought and paid for by prospects with cash in hand. The "going rate" for a post in Brown's office was roughly $10,000, according to what one ex-clerk's employee told federal investigators, but some higher-level positions were said to carry a price tag of $15,000 or more. In one cash-for-job scheme, authorities said Patel herself was handed an envelope of money, and then lied about it and apparently any connections to Dorothy Brown.

"It appears that the probation officer found her support for the conclusion that Beena Patel's conduct 'affected the government's ability to file charges against Dorothy Brown,'" states a filing by Patel's attorneys. "The government opined that her testimony was 'so misleading and had contradicted herself in so many respects that it was difficult for the Grand Jury to credit anything she said,'" Patel's attorneys wrote in their memo asking for mercy and no jail time at the Dec. 12 sentencing.

Brown's public spokesperson was already off for the Thanksgiving holiday and didn't reply to an I-Team message. Another Brown media representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the government's contention that the clerk got off the hook because of lies told by a top aide.

Late Wednesday, Brown's attorney Vadim Glozman said the Patel case "has nothing to do with Ms. Brown." The perjury prosecution of the ex-deputy clerk is a "completely separate matter," Glozman told the I-Team. "I can't comment on what the government thinks," the Chicago attorney said, referring to the prosecutor's comments that Patel's perjury cut into criminal charges against anyone.

Clerk of the Court Brown has been in office for almost 20 years. She announced last summer that she would not seek re-election.