State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown has resigned “under protest” following a guilty verdict on corruption charges.
The Democrat, who has represented the 190th Legislative District in West Philadelphia since 2008, said she was stepping down effective immediately, in a letter she sent to House Speaker Michael Turzai on Tuesday.
“Emboldened by the civil rights giants who have gone before me and with the love and support of my family and friends, I live to fight another day against injustice and racism,” Brown wrote.
Brown was convicted in October on charges that she took $4,000 in bribes from an informant for the state attorney general’s office. She was sentenced on Nov. 30 to 23 months of probation.
The conviction rendered Brown ineligible to serve as a member of the state House; if she did not resign, the House would force her to step down.
Her resignation comes a day after she appealed her conviction and asked that her sentence be vacated. Brown wrote in her resignation letter that she intends to continue with her appeal, and said the conviction has caused her “incalculable harm and reputational damage.”
Brown’s letter said the court’s findings that the investigation and her prosecution “carried overtones of racism and political animus” was the “first step in the ultimate vindication of my God-given and constitutional right to be treated fairly and equally under the law.”
Serving as a state representative “will forever be my life’s highest honor,” she wrote.
Between her conviction and sentencing, Brown ran unopposed for re-election for what would have been her sixth consecutive two-year term. She garnered 99.6 percent of the vote.
Her resignation will trigger a special election for her seat.
The House speaker is expected to set a date for the special election in the coming weeks. The special election must occur within 60 days after the vacancy begins and no later than the May primary. Party ward leaders will choose the candidates for the special election.
Brown also will most likely not receive her pension from the state.
Although Brown becomes eligible to receive a state pension on the completion of her 10th year in office this year, state law requires the forfeiture of future pension and retirement benefits of those who commit certain crimes.
Staff at the State Employee Retirement System will review Brown’s case to make a final determination about her pension and benefits.
The sting investigation into Brown and other public officials — all Democrats — was launched nearly a decade ago but was abandoned in 2013 by then-state Attorney General Kathleen Kane when she concluded it improperly targeted Black officials. The case was revived by then-Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.
In 2014, Brown acknowledged that taking the money was wrong when she testified before a grand jury. While she previously pleaded guilty in the case, she later changed her mind.
Four other former Philadelphia state lawmakers and a former traffic judge in the city, all Democrats, pleaded guilty or no contest to taking cash or gifts from informant Tyron Ali. Brown was the only defendant who chose to go to trial.
Three other sitting lawmakers resigned as part of their pleas. Democrats Kane and Williams later were convicted of criminal offenses related to their offices. Williams remains in federal prison; Kane recently reported to Montgomery County jail to serve her sentence.