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Despite supporters, Caraway 'just another bought and paid for politician,' judge says

Judge Barbara Lynn acknowledged that former Dallas councilman Dwaine Caraway did good for his community. But she still sent him away to prison for more than four years.

DALLAS — His supporters called him a "good man" and a "father figure" and a "caregiver." 

They thanked him for inspiring them to go to college, for loaning them the money that saved their home, for getting rid of the seedy hotels and drug houses in their community.

But Dwaine Caraway, a former Dallas mayor pro tem and councilman, still sat before those supporters on Friday, "embarrassed, ashamed," he told a federal judge.

"I humiliated the city," Caraway said. "These are the darkest days of my life. I did not plan to go out of politics this way.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn sentenced him to four years and eight months in federal prison for bribery. Lynn ordered Caraway to report to prison on May 5. She also ordered him to pay $565,774 in restitution and back taxes.

She said she had planned to order Caraway taken into custody on Friday, but told a roomful of his supporters that she was allowing him extra time to settle a probate case involving the will of his father, who died years ago. Caraway said he is the sole caretaker of his elderly and ailing mother.

Caraway pleaded guilty to bribery and tax evasion in August, admitting that he pocketed about $450,000 between 2011 and 2017. The money, consisting mostly of checks Caraway cashed at pawn shops and liquor stores, came from Bob Leonard Jr., a New Orleans businessman. His company, Force Multiplier Solutions, sold millions of dollars of school bus stop-arm cameras to Dallas County Schools, which ran fleets of school buses for local school districts.

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Before Lynn delivered the sentence, she heard from an array of Caraway supporters, who pleaded for lenience.

"He looked at me and said, 'Boy, you're going to college,'" Khalil Coffield told the judge.

Coffield, who would later graduate from Texas Southern University, met Caraway at the age of 12 at a leadership event called "Tied to Greatness." His mom was in prison, and his grandma raised him.

Caraway became a "father figure" to Coffield.

"He has been the man in my life," Coffield said. "He made a mistake."

Pearl Hicks, 78, testified about the time her and her husband were facing foreclosure on their home. Hicks went to Caraway, who loaned her money.

"I still have my house today because of Mr. Caraway," Hicks said.

Donald Parish, Caraway's pastor, said Caraway was "in a financial bind," in part because he was caring for his mother and that he lost his way.

"He came to the church and apologized," Parish said. "That's just the kind of person Dwaine is."

Before she delivered the sentence, Lynn credited Caraway for the good that he had done in the community. Lynn could have sentenced Caraway to up to seven years, but opted for a lower sentence in part because Caraway immediately admitting wrongdoing to FBI agents who visited him in July.

"My mother told me one lie leads to another," Caraway told the judge. "The agents were doing their job and they were respectful."

His attorney, Michael Payma, called Caraway's cooperation a conscious decision to "try to redeem himself."

"No other official has gone to the lengths to try to right the wrongs of his actions," Payma said.

But Caraway's tombstone, the judge said, will have a “big asterisk,” saying “at the end of the day he was just another bought and paid for politician.”

 “I was disgusted by your conduct," Lynn told him. "When it goes on for six years, it's hard to call it a mistake."

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