DA seeks court removal of lawmaker convicted of bribery

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A county prosecutor asked a Pennsylvania judge Friday to eject a state representative from office, one week after she was sentenced to probation in a bribery case.

Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo filed a civil suit that seeks the removal of state Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown of Philadelphia.

Lowery Brown, 52, was convicted in October of taking $4,000 in bribes from a confidential informant. A week later, the Democrat was unopposed and re-elected to a sixth term.

Her felony bribery conviction bars her from serving under the state constitution, and officials have predicted that her fellow lawmakers will not seat her if she attempts to be sworn in next month for the coming two-year term.

Her lawyer did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment, and the man answering the phone at her West Philadelphia district office said he was not able to contact her.

"By failing to resign her seat, (the) defendant is flaunting this court's judgment of sentence and requiring the commonwealth to expend additional resources to compel her to do what concern for public resources and respect for the constitution of this commonwealth both demanded that she would have done voluntarily," deputy prosecutor Mike Sprow wrote in a companion filing to Judge Scott Evans.

Sprow asked Evans to amend her 23-month probation sentence to require resignation within 24 hours and the repayment of any state salary or expense funds she receives.

MORE: Pennsylvania state lawmaker gets probation in bribery case

A spokesman for the House Democratic caucus confirmed that Lowery Brown has not stepped down, and declined to offer any immediate comment on the district attorney's requests.

Chardo's complaint noted that Lowery Brown attempted to sponsor a memorial resolution in the House on Tuesday.

Lowery Brown has apparently been removed from the Legislature's list of sitting lawmakers, and the site currently makes no mention of her 190th district.

A Philadelphia Inquirer columnist earlier this week quoted Lowery Brown as saying that she did not intend to try to serve in the coming term.

"I'm just very grateful I was able to get probation," she told the newspaper. "I still have some things to work on. It's not over yet. My legal team hasn't given up on me, and they're deciding what the next course of action would be for me."

Lowery Brown told a grand jury in 2014 that she knew taking the money was wrong.

A jury found her guilty of felony bribery, five counts of conflict of interest and failing to properly file a financial disclosure form. She was ordered to repay the $4,000 to the attorney general's office.

During the sentencing hearing, Evans said he was disturbed by the undercover investigation that resulted in Lowery Brown's charges, describing aspects of it as "troubling, to say the least," and referring to "racial overtones, political implications."

She was the sixth black elected official from Philadelphia to face legal consequences for involvement with the informant, Tyron Ali.

Then-state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who is white, abandoned the Ali-related investigation five years ago after concluding that it had improperly targeted black officials.

The then-Philadelphia district attorney, Seth Williams, who is black, revived the case and there were guilty or no-contest pleas by four other onetime state lawmakers and a former traffic judge, all Democrats, over cash or gifts from Ali.