Michael Rothenberg (John Disney/Staff)
Michael Rothenberg, a three-time candidate for the DeKalb County Superior Court bench, on Friday was sentenced to three years and five months in prison.
Based on allegations that he defrauded investors and used their money to fund his political campaign, Rothenberg in September pleaded guilty to a charge of federal wire fraud. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones sentenced Rothenberg to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $800,000 in restitution.
“This defendant committed fraud at the very time that he was asking the voters of DeKalb County to trust him,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a press release. “Now he will spend time in federal prison.”
Rothenberg, 36, a former part-time judge in DeKalb Recorders Court, said as part of his September plea that he had devised a fraudulent investment scheme that duped a Colorado energy company’s executives of more than $1 million, then used $250,000 to finance his 2010 campaign for a seat on the DeKalb County Superior Court.
After Colorado-based Winterhawk Energy and Development Co. sued Rothenberg during his 2010 judicial campaign, he lost a runoff election to opponent Courtney Johnson.
Yates’ release acknowledged assistance from the DeKalb district attorney’s office. DeKalb prosecutors had charged Rothenberg with six counts of felony theft in connection with the investment scheme. A county grand jury indicted Rothenberg midway through his 2012 campaign against DeKalb Superior Court Judge Gail Flake. The DA’s office dropped those charges after Rothenberg’s federal guilty plea.
Summarizing remarks that Rothenberg made in court, his lawyer, Lawrence Delan, said, “He’s accepted responsibility … and he is sorry for any harm that was caused and … is looking to serve out his sentence, make amends and start again.”