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A judge sentenced shadow campaign operative Vernon Hawkins to six months in prison today, in part because Hawkins likely lied to investigators about an alleged $10,000 payment to a close relative of Vince Gray‘s.
Still, the sentencing hearing revealed little else about the payment or its recipient who has been described in court papers as a “son”—save that an unnamed key government witness engaged in “pandering.” That could be a reference to involvement in shadow campaign financier Jeff Thompson‘s alleged sexual proclivities.
Sentencing Hawkins, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly described the 77-year-old’s involvement in the shadow campaign to elect his friend Gray and his subsequent lying to investigators as crimes that strike at democracy. But Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the 12-month prison sentence requested by prosecutors was too much.
“I see no personal gain for Mr. Hawkins in this case, only a misguided sense of loyalty,” Kollar-Kotelly said.
That puts Hawkins’ sentence on par with the potential sentence for Thompson, despite Thompson’s more extensive role in multiple shadow campaigns and other election crimes. Howard Brooks, another figure involved in Gray campaign-related crimes, received only probation. Both Brooks’ sentence and Thompson’s plea deal inspired Hawkins’ attorney to complain that a lengthy sentence would be unfair.
The difference, Kollar-Kotelly pointed out, is that Brooks received government credit for cooperation, while Thompson still could. On the other hand, prosecutors complain that Hawkins lied to them about the “close relative” payment even after agreeing to cooperate.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Hooks said that Hawkins always intended to take a “soldier’s plea” that would limit his own exposure to criminal penalties while also allowing him to prevent prosecutors from targeting other people in the shadow campaign. In sentencing papers, for example, prosecutors said that Hawkins insisted that Gray knew about the shadow campaign while failing to provide them with any usable evidence against Gray.