Judge sentences Rodney to probation, community service

A United States federal district judge in Washington, D.C. has sentenced a Caribbean media executive to two years probation and 500 hours of community service, and fined him $2,500 for lying to Congress.

Judge Emmet Sullivan of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia did not include any jail time in sentencing Jamaican-born Karl Rodney, the organizer of the Caribbean junkets that contributed to the downfall of influential Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY).

Prosecutors said Rodney, 73, the founder, president and publisher of the New York Carib News, a weekly newspaper in the New York metropolitan area, had concealed from Congress the funding source for conferences in the Caribbean.

Rodney had pleaded guilty to a false statements charge in April in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Prosecutors alleged that he neglected to tell Congress that major corporations funded conferences in 2007 and in 2008 in St. Maarten and Antigua, which members of Congress attended.

Rodney, according to the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, solicited financial support from the corporations, which provided hundreds of thousands of dollars for the conferences. Rodney reported to Congress that his foundation was the sole sponsor for the congressional members’ trips.

Rodney had faced an advisory sentencing range of zero to six months in prison for the offense.

Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree Jr., a lawyer for Rodney, said in court papers that probation was an appropriate sentence.

He said Rodney “has sought to experience every aspect of the American Dream, and has completely and unequivocally acknowledged his wrongdoing.”

Numerous lawyers, political officials and at least one celebrity, Jamaican-born popular Singer Harry Belafonte, submitted letters to the judge urging him not to punish Rodney with a prison sentence.

The courtroom was filled with Rodney’s supporters on Jul. 22, many of whom made the trip from New York City.

The Rodney case was referred to the Justice Department for prosecution when it admonished Rangel in February 2010.

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Ethic Committee had also referred Rodney’s Jamaican-born wife, Faye Rodney, for prosecution. But she was not charged, reportedly as part of the plea deal with her husband.

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