Crime - Sacto 911

Probation officer: Babulal Bera too old, sick for prison

Babulal Bera, 83, second from left, the father of Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, pleaded guilty Tuesday, May 10, 2016, in Sacramento federal court to two felony counts of election fraud involving the finances of his son’s campaign committee. From left, John Vincent, chief of the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office; Babulal Bera; interpreter Ed Loya Jr.; Dhaval Brahmbhatt; and U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley. Bera admitted in a plea agreement to Nunley that during his son’s 2010 and 2012 campaigns for Congress, he recruited friends, family members and acquaintances to make contributions to the committee and reimbursed them with his own money.
Babulal Bera, 83, second from left, the father of Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, pleaded guilty Tuesday, May 10, 2016, in Sacramento federal court to two felony counts of election fraud involving the finances of his son’s campaign committee. From left, John Vincent, chief of the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office; Babulal Bera; interpreter Ed Loya Jr.; Dhaval Brahmbhatt; and U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley. Bera admitted in a plea agreement to Nunley that during his son’s 2010 and 2012 campaigns for Congress, he recruited friends, family members and acquaintances to make contributions to the committee and reimbursed them with his own money. Special to The Bee

Federal prosecutors and attorneys for Babulal Bera clashed late Thursday in court papers arguing the pros and cons of Bera going to prison for election fraud in connection with two of his congressman son's campaigns.

As part of their sentencing memorandum, the defense attorneys lauded a federal probation officer for siding with them in the officer's report to the judge who is scheduled to pass judgment on Bera next Thursday.

In a strongly-worded counter memorandum, the prosecutors bluntly state the defense lawyers and the probation officer are wrong in their assessments of why Bera should not do time behind bars.

The prosecutors are asking for one year and one day in prison, plus six months of home confinement as part of three years of supervised release - below the imprisonment range of three years and 10 months and four years and nine months. If Bera served the year and a day with no in-custody discipline, 54 days would be deducted for good behavior and he would be released in just over 10 months.

That recommendation is shorter than the 2 1/2-year maximum recommendation the prosecutors promised Bera in return for his guilty plea in May to two felony counts.

Bera's son, Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, has said he knew nothing of his father's illegal campaign fund-raising. Ami Bera is currently in a bitterly-contested race for his 7th Congressional District seat with Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a Republican.

In urging the judge to place the defendant on probation for five years, Probation Officer Lynda Moore relies on Bera's age - 83 - his poor health, and the care and comfort he owes his 82-year-old wife, who also is in poor health. The recommendation departs from federal sentencing guidelines.

Prosecutors counter that a non-custodial sentence "is unwarranted by the defendant’s age, health, or familial obligations, and it would send precisely the wrong message about the gravity of campaign finance violations."

They say that Moore is buying into the arguments of defense lawyers, who are seeking even less time on probation - three years.

The defense lawyers insist that Bera "engaged in his criminal conduct out of 'love for his son and the excitement for his campaign,' and that he got 'too excited' and had 'no political agenda.'" when he channeled illegally excessive amounts of money into the campaigns of Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, and hid contributions to the campaigns under other names.

"This is not credible," the prosecutors declare. "First, the defendant’s actions cannot be explained by 'excitement.' He carried on these acts month after month, year after year, and over the course of two campaigns. However enthusiastic he may have been about the prospect that his son would be a United States congressman, he cannot explain away his actions as the result of runaway emotions.

"The notion that he had no political agenda is also not credible," the prosecutors state. "One assumes that he agrees with and supports the positions held by his son. Regardless, his irrefutable agenda was to get his son elected to political office."

Denny Walsh: 916-321-1189

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