"I am a liar, I can't take that back."
Beena Patel, aged 58, of Chicago, Illinois, has been jailed for two years after she lied to a federal grand jury while they were investigating a bribes-for-jobs scheme in the clerk’s office.
She was the former deputy of Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, who has been implicated in several federal and state investigations dating back to 2006.
Patel was convicted in April 2019 after she made false declarations before a grand jury. On December 19, 2019, she was sentenced at a hearing before US District Judge Sara Ellis.
Federal prosecutors argued her lies hindered the FBI’s ability to file criminal charges against her boss.
Prosecutors said Patel “successfully threw a wrench in the wheels of justice and ground them to a halt.”
Patel’s attorney stated that the longtime public employee already lost her pension due to the conviction and expressed her fear that the sentencing would “turn into a comment on public corruption.”
Evidence showed Patel and other employees selling tickets to a fundraiser on Brown’s behalf. However, during October 2015, she denied it under oath before a grand jury.
Patel lied about conversations she had with Sivasubramani Rajaram, an employee who said he gave $15,000 to Goat Masters Corporation, a company controlled by Brown’s husband, in exchange for a job in the clerk’s office.
Patel also lied about her communication with Brown’s chief of staff about a promotion for an employee whose brother had donated $10,000 to the clerk’s campaign funds.
Assistant US Attorneys Heather McShain and Ankur Srivastava said:
“[The] defendant not only had answers to the questions the grand jury was asking but had information that went to the very heart of its investigation.”
They recommended a 30-month sentence and added:
“Witnesses who lie during the course of a grand jury investigation not only violate their solemn oath to tell the truth but also impede the grand jury’s ability to gather evidence.”
Patel’s attorney requested a probation sentence, citing her age and the fact her conviction had already cost her an $87,500-a-year pension. Patel admitted to Judge Ellis:
“I am a liar, I can’t take that back. I have challenged myself to be a better person.”
Judge Ellis stated that after overseeing Patel’s trial, “there is something funny happening in the clerk’s office.”
Patch reported that Judge Ellis pointed out that Brown was not present at her former aide’s sentencing.
She told Beena Patel:
“For some reason, you made the decision to lie and protect her. And she’s not here to help you when you need help.”
In 2016, Brown was re-elected for a fifth term in office even though the Cook County Democratic Party withdrew their endorsement due to the federal investigation into allegations of corruption in her office.
In 2018, she launched a mayor campaign prior to Rahm Emanuel’s announcement he would not run for re-election.
She was kept off the ballot by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle who went on to come runner-up.
Brown has repeatedly denied the accusations and in August 2019, she announced that she will not seek another term as clerk.
In a statement, Brown said: “I think it’s a tragedy and I really have nothing to say.”