CHICAGO — A judge sentenced former top Dorothy Brown aide Beena Patel to two years in prison Thursday after she was convicted of lying to a federal grand jury.
During sentencing, Judge Sara Ellis was indignant Patel lied under oath when she was questioned about a job-buying scheme in the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk's Office.
“The oath and telling the truth is foundational,” Ellis said. “This act of lying before the grand jury really struck at the heart of our judicial system.”
A jury previously convicted Patel of lying about selling tickets to Brown fundraisers, and denying that she knew about a promotion given to another Brown employee whose brother gave the clerk a campaign donation.
Judge Ellis railed against the alleged corruption, saying, "there is something funny happening in the clerk’s office." In a statement, Brown told WGN: “I think it’s a tragedy and I really have nothing to say.”
Brown has not been charged with a crime and denies wrongdoing, but prosecutors say they have a statement from an employee who says they paid Brown $15,000 in exchange for a job.
According to political analyst Dick Simpson, the clerk's post has been, "one of the most corrupt offices in Cook County for decades."
"There’s been patronage, there’s been favoritism, and it’s been completely ineffective," Simpson said. "They’re even still using carbon paper in the office, they’re trying to switch to a computer system. They’re about a decade behind every court system in Illinois."
This isn’t the first time Brown’s office has faced questions. Simpson said birthday gifts given to Brown and a "jeans fund" have also faced scrutiny.
"But most of all the big problems were that they were shaking down the office employees to give to Dorothy Brown’s campaigns," Simpson said.
Despite the controversies, Brown survived for two decades. She’s stepping down next year after deciding not to seek re-election.
"If we elect a reform candidate we’ll finally get a working clerk’s office that will be based on merit," Simpson said.
In court Thursday, Judge Ellis noted that Beena Patel lied to protect Dorothy Brown, but Brown was powerless to protect her as she heads off to prison.