Dallas real estate developer, Ruel Hamilton, was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for bribing two former Dallas City Council members, acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham announced on Tuesday.
In June, Hamilton, an Oak Cliff native, was convicted by a federal jury on one count of conspiracy and two counts of bribery of an agent of a local government. Hamilton was the president of AmeriSouth Realty Group.
Hamilton’s sentence was set by Chief U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn, who also ordered him to pay a $150,000 fine.
Hamilton was given 90-days to report for prison, meaning he will begin serving his sentence in February. Hamilton faced as many as 20 years in prison, but the judge opted for less time, citing his serious health issues and “wonderful record” of service to the community.
Evidence presented at trial revealed Hamilton paid tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to city councilmember Carolyn Davis from 2013 to 2015. Davis was then serving as chair of the city’s Housing Committee.
In return, Davis, who pleaded guilty to her role before dying in a car wreck in 2019, supported Hamilton’s Royal Crest housing project across Interstate 45. Davis voted to authorize a real estate development loan and supported an award of a nine percent tax credit for the project.
Hamilton also agreed to hire Davis as a political consultant once her term as a councilmember ended to consult and lobby for him. Hamilton paid Davis over $145,000 after she left the council, prosecutors said.
In 2018, Hamilton paid a $7,000 bribe to councilmember Dwaine Caraway. Hamilton hoped that Caraway could convince the mayor to put a paid sick leave referendum on the city council’s agenda. Hamilton believed the referendum would increase turnout at the polls, advantaging his preferred political candidates.
Caraway resigned from office in 2018 after pleading guilty to an unrelated federal corruption case involving the former Dallas County Schools bus agency. Caraway was sentenced in 2019 to more than four years in prison for that case and testified against Hamilton during the trial in exchange for a few months getting knocked off his sentence.
This is not the first case of corruption involving real estate developers and Dallas City Council Members. In 2010 developer Brian Potashnik was sentenced to 14 months in prison for a similar City Hall corruption case. Potashnik pleaded guilty and cooperated with the government, while Hamilton decided not plea guilty and used his right for a trial by jury.
“Today’s sentencing reaffirms the FBI’s commitment to holding those who pay bribes, accept bribes, and facilitate bribe payments fully accountable. Mr. Hamilton learned that there are consequences to circumventing a system that is in place to protect taxpayers,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent in charge Matthew J. DeSarno. “Public corruption remains one of the FBI’s top criminal priorities, and we will continue working with our law enforcement partners to pursue anyone involved in this type of scheme.”