A federal courtroom packed with supporters of political consultant Gregory Naylor erupted in cheers Tuesday as he was sentenced to probation for his role in the corruption case of former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah.
Naylor could have been sent to prison for more than three years after pleading guilty in August 2014 to concealing the misuse of $622,000 in campaign contributions and federal grant funds, and lying about it to the FBI.
Prosecutors, while saying his cooperation with them and testimony against Fattah was pivotal, still wanted him to serve some prison time.
U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III told Naylor that corruption of public officials was "a particularly grave matter," but said he believed Naylor had acted out of "misguided loyalty" to the congressman.
Naylor initially lied to federal investigators, then cooperated fully. "Your assistance was not only substantial, but crucial," the judge said.
Sentencing guidelines called for Naylor to receive 30 to 37 months in prison. Prosecutors recommended that he serve a lesser term because of his "substantial cooperation."
The defense asked the judge to impose probation because of Naylor's cooperation, his low risk of recidivism, and his lack of criminal record. In court filings they described him as a man of "firm character," a mentor, and role model in the community.
On Tuesday, defense counsel Robert Levant called several character witnesses, who spoke of Naylor's decadeslong efforts to help the young and less fortunate.
The probation sentence "is really a credit to Greg - 68 years of doing a lot of good for a lot of people," Levant said. "The way he embraced his mistakes, not only through his testimony, but the way he acknowledged them in the community."
Naylor's probation will last four years. He also was fined $10,000.
Fattah's longtime confidant told a federal jury that he helped to falsify the congressman's campaign finance reports and steal thousands of dollars of political donations.
Why did he do it? "The congressman asked me," he testified in May at Fattah's trial.
Naylor testified as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, nearly two years after he admitted his own role in the crimes of which Fattah was accused. Naylor's cooperation with a long-running federal investigation marked the authorities' first significant breach of the congressman's inner circle.
Naylor's testimony directly linked Fattah to schemes to cover up and pay back an illegal $1 million campaign loan, and to use cash from the campaign coffers to repay his son's college debts.
Fattah, a Philadelphia Democrat, was convicted in June on racketeering and bribery charges, and resigned from Congress. He is to be sentenced in October.
On Tuesday, Naylor was the last person to address the judge before sentencing.
"There's only one person to blame for what has taken place," he said, "and he's standing right here."
Minutes later, he was embraced by person after person, some crying, others patting his back and shaking his hand.
Asked how he felt, Naylor said, "I guess relieved. And elated. And grateful. Grateful for all the support I've gotten from people."