Jamaican media exec awaits sentencing

A United States federal judge has set a sentencing date for prominent Jamaican-born media executive Karl Rodney.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, of federal district court in Washington, will determine on Apr. 14 whether to impose a prison term or a fine on Rodney, founder, publisher and president of the New York Carib News, for lying to the U.S. Congress.

Officials said on Mar. 10 that Rodney is expected to cop a plea deal with prosecutors. Under U.S. law, he cannot be imprisoned for more than five years.

Federal prosecutors last month charged Rodney, who also owns a Caribbean foundation, with lying to the House of Representatives’ Ethics Committee during an inquiry into who paid for several legislators to go on Caribbean trips.

Rodney has been charged with one count of making a false statement to Congress, according to the U.S. Legal Times.

“The charge follows a long-running congressional inquiry into two Caribbean trips, one in 2007 and one in 2008,” the Legal Times said.

“Money from several major corporations, including American Airlines, AT&T and Verizon, helped to pay for at least six lawmakers to go on the trips,” it quoted a February 2010 report from the House Ethics Committee.

“Members of Congress face restrictions on attending conferences sponsored by corporations that have lobbyists, but Rodney and his staff did not disclose that anyone other than the Carib News Foundation was sponsoring its conferences,” it continued.

According to court documents, Rodney “falsely certified that the statements on a certification form were true, complete, and correct to the best of his knowledge, when in truth and in fact, as [Rodney] well knew when he made this statement, the certification form was untrue, incomplete and incorrect in that it did not identify all the sponsors of the trip.”

The documents also charged that Rodney “failed to disclose all the sources that had earmarked funds and other support to finance aspects of the trip.”

In a letter, dated March 2009 and addressed to the Office of Congressional Ethics, lawyers for Rodney described him as a “pillar of the Caribbean American community.”

“It is clear that it has always been our clients’ intention to complete all of the necessary paperwork, including the House’s Private Sponsor Certification Form, accurately and honestly,” wrote the lawyers, Joel Cohen and Danielle Walsman.

In its report last year, the House Ethics Committee “publicly accused” Rodney; his Jamaican-born wife, Faye Rodney; and their employee, Patricia Louis, of “submitting false or misleading information during the committee’s pre-travel review of the conferences,” the Legal Times said.

The Committed had referred the three to the U.S. Justice Department for possible prosecution. Court documents do not show that Faye Rodney or Louis has been charged.

Five members of the Congressional Black Caucus were cleared by the Ethics Committee because the committee said they “did not knowingly violate the House’s Code of Official Conduct.”

But the committee admonished a sixth lawmaker, Harlem Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel, because it said “Rangel’s staff knew corporations had contributed money for the conferences.”

“The committee said it did not have sufficient evidence that Rangel was aware of what his staff knew,” the Legal Times said.

The conferences were held in Antigua and Barbuda in November 2007 and St. Maarten in 2008.

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