Blondell Reynolds Brown's campaign manager pleads guilty in federal court

John D. McDaniel leave Federal Court in Philadelphia, Pa. on February 14, 2013. McDaniel, former campaign manager to City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal wire fraud charge in the theft of more than $100,000 from Brown's campaign fund and another political action committee heavily funded by the Laborers Union. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )

John McDaniel, the campaign manager for City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown in 2010 and 2011 who also worked on Mayor Nutter's re-election campaign during that time, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday morning for stealing from two political action committees.

McDaniel, who faces 15 to 21 months in federal prison for one count of wire fraud, is not required to cooperate with any ongoing federal investigations but the judge will be informed when he is sentenced in May if he does cooperate, assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Gray said after the guilty plea.  Gray declined to comment when asked about other investigations.

McDaniel's attorney, Charles Gibbs, declined to say if McDaniel will cooperate going forward, including giving testimony to a federal grand jury or interviews with federal investigators.  Gibbs would also not say if Brown's recent comments, blaming McDaniel for problems with her political action committee, would motivate him to cooperate.

"He and I both explored the facts that were alleged against him," Gibbs said. "And we realized that the best possible course was to plead guilty."

Brown attended City Council's weekly meeting Thursday morning but fled when she learned that reporters were prepared to ask her questions about McDaniel. She was not in her City Hall office after the meeting.

McDaniel told U.S. District Judge Mary McLaughlin that he is now unemployed after Mayor Nutter fired him two weeks ago from an $87,125-per-year job created for him to supervise volunteers at the airport. 

Nutter acted after a Philadelphia Board of Ethics report detailed serious problems with Brown's political action committee, including a bogus expense filing to disguise $3,300 personal loan repaid to Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr., the son of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, Brown's political mentor.

McDaniel, who is free until his sentencing on May 14, also told McLaughlin that he is seeing a psychologist but has not been diagnosed as mentally ill and is not taking any medication. 

In court, Gray explained that McDaniel stole between $70,000 and $120,000 in 2010 and 2011 from Brown's political action committee and the Progressive Agenda PAC, a political action committee funded by the Laborer's District Council, which represents some construction workers in the region.  Gray said McDaniel made withdrawals, wrote checks to himself and transferred money improperly from Brown's bank account to the Progressive Agenda PAC bank account.

Nutter also fired McDaniel because he continued to do work for the Progressive Agenda PAC after taking a city job last year, a violation of the city's ban on political activity for employees.  McDaniel lost a previous city job in 2005, during Mayor Street's second term, for violating that ban on political activity.

McDaniel, who was charged last Thursday, took the swiftest course to get in front of a judge, waiving his right to have his case presented to a grand jury, to have a jury trial and to file any appeal after sentencing.  Gray said the amount of money McDaniel stole and the trust he abused were partially mitigated by his acceptance of responsibility and the assistance he provided in the investigation into his own actions.