Mark Long (right) with Vince Gray in 2010
Mark Long (right) with Vince Gray in 2010

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An order from a D.C. Superior Court judge today sets the stage for what could be the first trial to emerge from the Vince Gray mayoral campaign investigation—-if the judge lets the order stand.

Mark Long, who worked worked as Gray’s illicitly funded campaign driver in the 2010 mayoral race, pleaded guilty in 2014 to conspiracy for his role. Now, though, Long wants to take back the plea that could have him facing five years in prison.

Long’s attorney Charles Wagner came to today’s hearing with a host of reasons why Judge Anita Josey-Herring should allow Long to pull his plea. Among them: the claim that Long’s previous attorney failed to warn him about the maximum sentence on the deal, and the much lighter plea deals reached by fellow shadow campaign figures Jeff Thompson and Eugenia Clarke Harris.

Wagner also claimed that prosecutors filled Long’s statement of offense with accusations about Gray in an attempt to doom his chances for re-election (an unlikely prospect, since Long’s hearing came months after Gray’s 2014 primary defeat).

Quoting poet Robert Browning, Wagner claimed that denying the motion from Long—-who received his own Thompson-funded shadow campaign in an ill-fated 2008 at-large bid—-would amount to “one more devils’ triumph.”

“One wrong more to man,” Browning said. “One more insult to God.”

Prosecutor Jonathan Hooks argued for keeping Long’s plea, arguing that shadow campaign mastermind Thompson’s mere six-month expected sentence shouldn’t affect Long’s case.

“It’s really irrelevant what other people plead to,” Hooks said.

Still, Josey-Herring ruled that Long’s claim of ineffective counsel was enough to allow him to withdraw his plea. That prompted Hooks to hint that several new charges were coming for Long, this time in federal court. That would mean a trial for Long, and, intriguingly, discovery into the government’s investigative files.

But it could all come to nothing. After complaints from the prosecution, Josey-Herring held off on her order until June, when she’ll let the sides make new arguments about the plea.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery