Cincy Developer Convicted Again

LaShawn Pettus-Brown, who was brought on board by the city of Cincinnati to renovate the Empire Theatre, has been convicted of theft and tampering of evidence, and faces up to 21 years in prison.

Pettus-Brown is a Cincy native who convinced the city in 2002 to give him $184,000 to renovate the theatre on Vine Street, which had been the epicenter of the 2001 riots. Investigators contend he spent the money on meals, plane tickets and promoting a hip-hop show, among other things, and not the facility, which was eventually demolished.

After a year on the lam, the would-be developer was located in Long Island, N.Y. In January, he was convicted on federal wire fraud and money laundering charges, but U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Beckwith reversed the sentence on a technicality. Two days later, he was brought up on a state charge of felony theft by deception.

Pettus-Brown’s lawyer, Pete Rosenwald, told The Cincinnati Post his client was not the only person culpable in this case.

“It’s obvious the city didn’t do its job determining if he was capable of doing this,” Rosenwald said. “They didn’t follow their own rules. They should have never given him the money.”

Mayor Charlie Luken testified at the trial that the city admittedly made mistakes, the Post said.