Former Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh (D.) was sentenced to three years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to charges of fraud, conspiracy, and tax evasion.
U.S. District Court judge Deborah K. Chasanow said there is no justification for Pugh's "astounding" corruption, which included a scheme to use state contracts to profit off her Healthy Holly children's books, the Baltimore Sun reported.
"It is astounding and I have yet frankly to hear any explanation that makes sense," Chasanow said. "This was not a tiny mistake, lapse of judgment. This became a very large fraud. The nature and circumstances of this offense clearly I think are extremely, extremely serious."
The judge was unmoved by a video Pugh's attorneys put forward, in which Pugh apologized repeatedly for harming "the city's image." Prosecutors argued the former mayor needed to pay a price for her "brazen lies to the public," which forced her to resign last year.
"It was not rash behavior," prosecutors wrote. "Rather, it was a recurring pattern of well-executed steps that built on each other, becoming more audacious and complex leading up to the mayoral election."
Pugh's unusual scheme entailed securing the sale of hundreds of thousands of her Healthy Holly books to the state's university medical system and health care providers with business in Baltimore. Health care provider Kaiser Permanente revealed it bought 20,000 copies of the books, paying about $114,000 to Healthy Holly LLC between 2015 and 2018. Pugh was leading the city's spending board in 2017, when Kaiser Permanente's Mid-Atlantic subsidiary received a $48 million contract from the city, Fox News reported.
When she emerged from the courthouse Thursday to address TV cameras, Pugh pledged her love to Baltimore and said, "This is not the last you'll see of Catherine Pugh."