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Ex-Philly judge who accepted a $90K payoff from Bob Brady’s campaign is spared prison time

Thursday's sentence offered a coda to an FBI investigation that netted convictions against former Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore, his campaign manager and two Brady staffers, but left the congressman -- the man who benefitted most from their crimes -- unscathed.

U.S. Rep Bob Brady (left); former Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore (right)
U.S. Rep Bob Brady (left); former Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore (right)Read moreFile Photos

One of ex-U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s former political opponents was spared prison time Thursday over his acceptance of an illegal $90,000 payoff that bought his exit from the 2012 primary race.

Instead, a federal judge sentenced Jimmie Moore, 68, to two years of probation, crediting his extensive cooperation with FBI investigators and testimony that helped put one of Brady’s top aides behind bars.

“It’s an appropriate punishment,” said U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois. “I don’t think it’s too harsh or too lenient.”

Moore, a former Municipal Court judge who resigned from the bench to challenge Brady in a Democratic primary, immediately thanked the judge.

“The last two years have been a nightmare for me,” he said. “There’s not a day that’s gone by that I’ve not been overcome with remorse about this self-created disaster.”

» READ MORE: 'The offer of all offers': Ex-Brady challenger describes $90K payoff that bought him out of the race

Thursday’s proceedings offered a downbeat coda to a years-long investigation that netted convictions against Moore, his campaign manager, and two Brady staffers, but left unscathed the man who benefited most from their crimes.

Though prosecutors had accused Brady in court filings of conspiring to violate campaign finance laws alongside Moore and the others, they chose not to charge him and have repeatedly declined to discuss that decision. It came after several rounds of intense lobbying by the congressman’s legal team with top Justice Department officials in Washington.

Moore’s attorney, Jeffrey Miller, alluded to those unusual circumstances Thursday.

Moore "wasn’t the architect of this scheme,” the lawyer said. He urged DuBois to consider the lack of charges against Brady in determining the former judge’s punishment.

Moore pleaded guilty to falsifying campaign finance records in 2017 and admitted he disguised the source of the $90,000 he received from Brady’s campaign in exchange for his pledge to drop out of the 2012 race.

Because federal campaign contribution limits at the time capped the amount that one candidate could give another's campaign at $2,000 for a primary election, Brady’s campaign funneled the money through two political consulting firms run by longtime campaign aides.

One of them, Kenneth Smukler, is serving an 18-month prison term at a federal detention center in Fairton, N.J., after a jury convicted him for his role in the scheme. The other, Donald “D.A.” Jones, pleaded guilty and faces sentencing next week, as does Moore’s former campaign manager and ex-fiancée, Carolyn Cavaness.

Brady has consistently argued that the payment to Moore’s campaign was legal, properly documented, and carried out largely by his subordinates. He maintains the money was spent in large part to buy exclusive rights to a poll Moore had commissioned while he was still in the race.

But while Brady remains chairman of the powerful city Democratic Committee after retiring from Congress last year, Moore’s fortunes have fallen dramatically since he became the focus of the FBI’ probe.

His health is failing. He is likely to lose his law license and $4,600-a-month pension. And before Thursday’s hearing, he was worried he might end up in prison. Miller described that as a tragedy for a man who had climbed his way out of childhood poverty in Hartford, Conn., to earn a law degree and a spot on the bench in his adopted hometown of Philadelphia.

Moore was so poor as a child, Miller told the court, that he used to bash parking meters with a baseball bat to steal nickels to pay for food.

» READ MORE: For judge in Brady scandal, a path from the projects to the bench

And yet Thursday, the man who adjudicated hundreds of cases during his 11 years as a judge found himself in the uncomfortable position of awaiting judgment from the defendant’s table.

Sitting across from him on the government’s side was a prosecutor who once argued cases in his court.

“It saddens me that we’re here today,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric L. Gibson, who worked in the District Attorney’s Office before becoming a federal prosecutor.

Gibson struggled to answer when DuBois asked him pointedly whether he though Moore deserved to be jailed.

While noting Moore’s crimes were serious and deserved punishment, Gibson responded: “His cooperation was extraordinary. Mr. Moore came across as completely candid and forthright. I believe he is sincere when he indicated he is regretful.”

Ultimately, DuBois said, it was Moore’s reaction when he first learned of the FBI investigation that swayed his decision to grant probation.

Cavaness came to him in a panic after FBI agents showed up at her door asking questions about the race against Brady. Moore didn’t know it at the time, but she was wearing a recording device.

Still, in a recording played at Smukler’s trial, the former judge urged Cavaness to cooperate with authorities and assured her that he would take the fall for any consequences.

“I made a bad decision,” he said Thursday. “There was no excuse for breaking the law.”