The manager of former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah's Philadelphia office was sentenced Wednesday to three months of house arrest and three years on probation for facilitating a bribe from a political fund-raiser.
Prosecutors had sought a prison sentence for Bonnie Bowser, as had been imposed on Fattah and three of his codefendants, who also took their cases to trial this year.
But U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III said that Bowser played a minimal role in the conspiracy headed by the former congressman and that her crimes seemed to be committed out of loyalty to him.
"Clearly you were a very small fish . . . who was swimming in a very large pond with a predatory fish," Bartle said.
The decision brought gasps and sighs of relief from a courtroom packed with Bowser's friends and family.
Bowser, 61, declined to comment while leaving the courtroom, but said in a brief statement to Bartle before her sentence that she was remorseful and that "looking back, there are many things I would have done differently."
Bowser was convicted in May on counts of conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering. Jurors rejected most of the charges, including racketeering, finding her role to have been limited to helping Fattah secure an $18,000 bribe from Herbert Vederman, a political fund-raiser.
That bribe, prosecutors said, was paid in 2012 and disguised as a sham sale of a Porsche convertible owned by Fattah's wife, former NBC10 anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah. Bowser was accused of securing the necessary paperwork.
She also signed off on hiring Vederman's girlfriend as an low-show employee in the office, which prosecutors said was another favor Fattah extended to his friend.
Fattah was sentenced on Monday to 10 years in prison for a string of corrupt acts. Vederman received a two-year sentence.
Codefendants Karen Nicholas and Robert Brand, convicted of helping Fattah repay a political debt with charity and grant money, received multiyear prison sentences on Tuesday.