DALLAS — A federal judge reduced former Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway’s prison sentence by five months, half of what prosecutors had asked after he helped them by testifying against Ruel Hamilton, a developer convicted of bribery.
Chief U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn cited “Caraway’s credibility while testifying” when she ordered his 56-month sentence only lowered to 51 months.
Prosecutors had sought to have it reduced by 10 months based on “substantial assistance.”
His current release date, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons, is April 2023, but that hasn’t taken into account the reduction, said his attorney Michael D. Payma.
Payma said his client accepts the judge’s decision.
“I wish it was 10 months, but that’s the discretion of the judge,” Payma said. “She decided five months was appropriate.”
Caraway is currently serving time at Big Spring Federal Correction Institution, about 300 miles west of Dallas near Midland.
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Judge Lynn originally sentenced Caraway in 2019 after he pleaded guilty to taking $450,000 in bribes from promoters of a school bus stop-arm camera system in exchange for helping advocate for the system’s widespread adoption. The governmental entity Dallas County Schools was dissolved amid the scandal.
Caraway took bribes from two other unrelated sources – Hamilton, and two undercover FBI agents posing as developers. Caraway was never charged for taking any of those bribes, but testified about them during Hamilton’s trial last month. Hamilton was convicted.
Wearing a prison uniform, handcuffs and leg shackles, the former five-term councilman told jurors how he made a secret video recording at the FBI’s request of a meeting with Hamilton. At that meeting, Hamilton wrote Caraway a $7,000 check in exchange for the councilman’s political support of Hamilton’s affordable housing projects, and help with a ballot initiative Hamilton wanted put before voters to boost turnout.
Over two days of testimony, though, Caraway repeatedly lied about knowing what all the bribes he took over the years were actually for, minimized his criminal involvement and refused to directly answer questions from prosecutors and the defense, often going on rambling explanations justifying his actions. Judge Lynn had to intervene repeatedly to keep Caraway on track in his testimony.
Caraway still must repay $565,774 in restitution in the Dallas County Schools bus camera debacle, which Judge Lynn did not lower.
Caraway could have had to pay much more. He was along with Rick Sorrells and Larry Duncan, who formerly led Dallas County Schools, and a bevy of other defendants were sued by the committee in charge of dissolving Dallas County Schools, which lost at least $125 million in taxpayer money after it collapsed in the wake of the bus camera scandal.
Payma said that the judge in that case ruled Caraway was not liable for more of DCS’s losses.
Property owning taxpayers in Dallas County, however, are on the hook for millions in losses. The amount appears on Dallas County property tax statements under the item “county and school equalization.” Taxes will continue to be collected to pay off Dallas County Schools bribery-fueled debts for the next few years, officials have said.