DALLAS — Dwaine Caraway, the former Dallas City Council member who pleaded guilty to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and spent years in federal prison, is now a free man.
Caraway was released on Feb. 7, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. He had been doing his time at the Big Spring Federal Correction Institution, about 300 miles west of Dallas near Midland.
Caraway, who served five terms on Dallas City Council, was spotted Monday at a North Dallas gas station. Attempts to reach him and his lawyer on the phone were unsuccessful.
He originally was sentenced to 56 months, but got it reduced by five months for testifying last summer against developer Ruel Hamilton, who was convicted of paying bribes to Caraway and the late former council woman Carolyn Davis.
Caraway had asked for a 10-month sentence reduction in exchange for his testimony, but Chief U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn cited “Caraway’s credibility while testifying” when she cut that request in half.
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 in June 2021.
Wearing a prison uniform, handcuffs and leg shackles, Caraway told jurors last summer 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 for 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.
Jurors convicted Hamilton, who was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay a $150,000 fine. He was supposed to report to prison March 29, but Judge Lynn granted him a delay so that he could recover from heart surgery. The judge said she will set a new date for Hamilton to report to prison after April 25.
Despite having his sentence reduced, Caraway still must repay $565,774 in restitution in the Dallas County Schools bus camera debacle. That fine was not lowered.
Caraway could have had to pay much more. He, 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.
The judge in that case ruled Caraway was not liable for more of DCS’s losses.
Taxpayers, 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.