After explosive revelations at City Hall, a closer look at KCMO councilman's blackmail allegations
5:27 PM, Aug 16, 2013
6:32 PM, Aug 16, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - One day after explosive revelations at City Hall, 41 Action News is taking a closer look at a Kansas City councilman's response to a sexting scandal and allegations of blackmail.
41 Action News
broke the story on Wednesday, prompting an admission of a "horrible lack of judgment" by Councilman Michael Brooks. However, Brooks denied any connected to $15,000 of taxpayer funds for an event with a world-famous boxer that never occurred.
"That's the very reason why I don't make comments to the press because you knew the truth and you reported it anyway. Now, let me see if you will print that in the news," Brooks said.
After learning of the sexting scandal and allegations of blackmail, 41 Action News tried to speak with Brooks more than two months ago.
Calls and emails went unreturned. There were attempted conversations at City Hall, including the delivery of a letter that had more details. It was made clear the woman who received the sexting photos of Brooks had told her side of the story.
But there was never a response from the councilman.
The woman at the center of the investigation told 41 Action News the organizers of a Floyd Mayweather Jr. event had the photos and used them to pressure Brooks to request the $15,000 of city funds.
A text message Brooks sent the woman last August read, "All of you have blackmail on your mind. Wonder if it's a federal offense to extort money from a public official. You will know shortly."
The text message also included this phrase: "Ask 15 all you got was 300 with proof you got it."
During their brief relationship last summer, the woman said Brooks wired her $300 for groceries and she showed 41 Action News a receipt. The woman is convinced the "15" references the $15,000 of taxpayer money.
When Brooks offered no response, 41 Action News contacted attorney John Picerno in late June. The woman said she had received a call from Picerno last year to ask if she planned to make the sexting photos public. And it turned out Picerno did represent the councilman.
When questioned about the "15" in the text message, Picerno said he would not address the specifics of the message, but insisted it had no connection whatsoever to the city funds.
On Thursday at City Hall, Brooks told reporters the woman had blackmailed him for $60,000. He also said he'd spoken with the FBI about the situation and it was an open case.
During the June interview, Picerno said he wasn't aware of anyone who had threatened to use the photos against Brooks to get money. He also would not answer whether or not Brooks had spoken with the FBI.
When asked if the "book was closed" on any situation involving blackmail, Picerno replied, "As far as we're concerned, I believe it is."
Reached by phone on Friday, the woman told 41 Action News the $60,000 blackmail claim was "ludicrous."
"It's not about the money. It never has been," she said. "I got caught up with someone I looked up to and respected."
After the woman told her story to 41 Action News, she contacted the FBI in June. The next day, she said an agent showed up at her home to retrieve the images and text message from her phone.