LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) — A former California congressional aide accused of promising to “make things happen” to keep an illegal Compton pot shop in business was convicted Thursday of taking a $5,000 bribe.
The conviction came after Michael Kimbrew, 44, of Carson pleaded not guilty in federal court last year to one count each of attempted extortion and bribery of a public official.
A jury returned the verdicts on both charges after six hours of deliberation.
Kimbrew did not take the witness stand in his defense. He could face up to 18 years in prison when he’s sentenced June 4.
Kimbrew “left a pretty damning trail,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsey Greer Dotson told jurors.
He was working in the Compton field office of Rep. Janice Hahn in 2015 when he approached a the now-defunct Green Legends marijuana shop that was operating illegally on Long Beach Boulevard and told an employee it would be shut down if he couldn’t reach a deal with the owners, according to prosecutors.
Evidence presented during two days of testimony showed that Kimbrew subsequently met with the dispensary’s owners inside Compton City Hall. Falsely claiming to be working with the FBI, Kimbrew said he could “make things happen” by ensuring the illegal pot store had the appropriate permits in exchange for $5,000.
Jurors watched a video recording of Kimbrew meeting with an undercover FBI agent and discussing the $5,000 bribe, which the agent had hidden in a restaurant menu and passed to the defendant during a second meeting.
Hahn, who is now a Los Angeles County supervisor, was not named in the indictment. A spokeswoman for Hahn, who is now a Los Angeles County supervisor, has said that Kimbrew worked for the former congresswoman for about a year and was fired in early 2016.
Defense attorney Kim Savo did not deny her client took the money, arguing that it was a “gratuity” out of friendship and not a bribe.
“There’s a difference between accepting a gratuity that you shouldn’t be accepting and (committing) a federal crime,” Savo said. “There’s no extortion here.”
The defense unsuccessfully argued that Kimbrew only took the cash when the undercover agent insisted the money was in exchange for introductions to other dispensary owners and to ensure a “good relationship” — which was unethical but not illegal, Savo maintained.
“Mr. Kimbrew was acting shady,” Savo said in her summation. “But that’s not a federal crime.”
Kimbrew is the son of former Compton Unified School District board member Basil Kimbrew, who pleaded no contest in 2005 to using a school district credit card to pay for a party.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)