Former Cincinnati city councilwoman Tamaya Dennard apologizes in letter to judge

Fprmer Cincinnati City Council member Tamaya Dennard walks into federal court on June 29....
Fprmer Cincinnati City Council member Tamaya Dennard walks into federal court on June 29. Dennard pleaded guilty to wire fraud.(WXIX)
Updated: Oct. 15, 2020 at 7:31 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Former Cincinnati City Council Member Tamaya Dennard, who previously pleaded guilty on a charge of wire fraud, has written the judge in charge of her sentencing asking him to see beyond her “horrible mistake.”

Dennard’s sentencing is set for Nov. 24.

She could face up to 20 years in prison, a term of supervised release of not more than three years and a fine not to exceed $250,000, court documents state.

Dennard says the letter to Judge Susan Dlott, which was submitted to the court on Oct. 15, was the hardest thing she’s written.

“The letter is the beginning of my space of restorative justice and I would love to be able to continue,” Dennard wrote.

Dennard described the path that led her to where she is now, including experiencing tough financial times as she grew up and then as an adult, when it was a challenge to find a job where she could make a living.

She says her work as a strategist led her to seek political office but that it was hard being a candidate and holding a full-time job.

“That’s part of the privilege of politics; most everyday people can’t do both. Doing both was an accomplishment in and of itself,” Dennard wrote.

Dennard says her finances suffered because she had to take out loans to help with housing expenses during the campaign and that her paychecks were being garnished to pay off student loans.

She wrote that she did try to find a temporary job after she joined city council but no one would hire her due to the demands on her time.

Dennard says she applied for several loans but her credit was in terrible shape.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions. But the story of a politician looking to turn her seat into a cash cow isn’t mine. It’s not even remotely close. I was trying to gain stability so that I could focus more on my job. I made a terrible mistake that I will pay for for the rest of my life,” Dennard wrote.

Dennard pleaded guilty in September and admitted she received $15,000 from an attorney for the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, according to court documents.

In return, Dennard promised and provided favorable action on behalf of the attorney and his clients, the documents read.

In her letter to Judge Dlott, Dennard wrote that she understands how asking for money was wrong because she asked for and accepted something of value that her council seat gave her access to.

Dennard says she never aspired to a career in politics but she decided to run for office because “the downtrodden in Cincinnati needed a champion.”

She wrote that she tried to make the city a place where everyone had an opportunity to succeed.

“Despite personal attacks, the fights against the status quo, in hate speech and homophobic insults, I went to work for the people who were ignored,” Dennard wrote.

She says she has come to terms with how she let those people down.

Dennard says in the meantime, she is still committed to issues of racial and social justice.

She says she started a new career as a freelance journalist with an organization called The Activated People, an online newspaper committed to justice and equity.

She also wants to help grassroots and community organizations understand government processes better in order to create change.

You can read Dennard’s entire letter below:

Along with the letter, Dennard’s attorney submitted a memorandum that asks for a sentence of home incarceration followed by probation rather than jail time for her client.

Among the reasons given are Dennard’s story of setbacks and successes, the nature and circumstances of her offense and that a jail sentence is a waste of resources and is unwise due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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