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After more than four years under federal scrutiny, ex-Mayor Vince Gray won’t face charges in the probe of his 2010 campaign. In a press statement, new U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips says no more charges will be filed related to the Gray campaign or shadow campaigns organized by Jeff Thompson.
The investigation of Gray and Thompson earned a dozen guilty pleas, but apparently Phillips isn’t as confident in his case as predecessor (and longtime Gray foe) Ron Machen was. In his statement, available in full below, Phillips’ office says their evidence in the case “is likely insufficient to obtain and sustain a criminal conviction against any other individuals related to the federal and local political campaigns.”
Gray attorney Robert Bennett tells LL that he’s “very happy and pleased” by Phillips’ decision. “Mayor Gray never did anything wrong, so this is the right decision,” Bennett says. “He can now get on with his personal and professional life.”
The end of the investigation is also big news for Gray confidantes like former D.C. Chamber of Commerce chief Barbara Lang. “What government office does he go to get his professional reputation back?” Lang says.
Former Gray campaign manager Chuck Thies, meanwhile, says he’s breaking out a bottle of champagne he originally had saved for the 2014 election night victory that never came.
Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander backed Gray’s mayoral run, but now she could be facing a campaign against him next year for her seat. On the phone with LL, Alexander seemed less enthused.
“I guess that’s good news for him,” Alexander says.
The closed investigation means sentencing dates can be set for several government cooperators, including Thompson. Several people who pleaded guilty are scheduled to have hearings later this month.
Phillips’ full statement:
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced today that the investigation into corrupt spending in federal and local political campaigns, including the 2010 mayoral election in the District of Columbia, has concluded.
No additional charges are expected to be filed in the investigation related to the federal and local political campaigns, which uncovered evidence of over $3.3 million in illegal contributions to various campaigns between 2006 and 2011. A total of 12 people pled guilty to charges in the investigation, including seven who pled guilty to offenses directly involving or connected to the 2010 District of Columbia mayoral election.
In a related action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office today filed motions asking judges to begin setting sentencing dates for the seven people who have pled guilty but have yet to be sentenced in the investigation.
In every criminal trial, the government bears the burden of proving a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Department of Justice policy provides that no prosecution should be initiated against any person unless the government believes that the person probably will be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury, sitting as an unbiased trier of fact, and that the jury’s guilty verdict probably will be sustained by a reviewing court. In this investigation, based on a thorough review of the available evidence and applicable law, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has concluded that the admissible evidence is likely insufficient to obtain and sustain a criminal conviction against any other individuals related to the federal and local political campaigns.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia worked with the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Washington Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) on the investigation, which began in 2011. In addition to campaign-related offenses, the investigation uncovered numerous instances of obstructive conduct by several of the defendants, as described further below, to conceal the extent of the wrongdoing.
Those who have pleaded guilty to charges involving the mayoral election were the following:
Jeffrey E. Thompson: Thompson pled guilty in March 2014 and admitted taking part in a scheme in which he and his companies, Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio and Associates (TCBA) and D.C. Healthcare Systems, Inc. (DCHSI), secretly channeled more than $3.3 million in illegal contributions to at least 28 political candidates and their campaigns, including candidates for the offices of President of the United States and Mayor of the District of Columbia. In his guilty plea, Thompson admitted, among other things, to secretly channeling more than $668,800 to pay for campaign activities in connection with a mayoral campaign in the 2010 District of Columbia mayoral election.
Eugenia C. Harris: Harris, the owner of two businesses in the District of Columbia, pled guilty in July 2012 and admitted to conspiring to disguise the source of campaign contributions in federal and local elections, including the 2010 District of Columbia mayoral campaign. As part of her guilty plea, she also admitted taking part in steps to conceal the illegal activities, such as causing others to shred and destroy a large volume of paper records maintained by her businesses because they could have revealed the extent of her involvement in the mayoral election.
Vernon Hawkins: Hawkins pled guilty in August 2013 to making a false statement to federal authorities investigating allegations involving the 2010 District of Columbia mayoral campaign. Among other things, Hawkins twice gave cash that he obtained from Harris to persuade a potential witness to leave the area so that he would be unavailable to speak with federal agents.
Mark Long: Long pled guilty in September 2014 to conspiring to defraud the District of Columbia’s Office of Campaign Finance by funding and concealing contributions in excess of those permitted under D.C. campaign finance laws. In his plea, Long admitted that he received payment for campaign-related work during the 2010 District of Columbia mayoral campaign from Harris, who had received the funds from Thompson.
Howard L. Brooks: Brooks pled guilty in May 2012 to making a false statement to federal agents investigating activities in the 2010 District of Columbia mayoral campaign. He was sentenced to probation and community service.
Thomas W. Gore: Gore pled guilty in May 2012 to obstructing justice by destroying records in the federal investigation and making campaign contributions in the name of another person related to the 2010 District of Columbia mayoral campaign. He was sentenced to six months in prison.
Stephanie Reich: Reich pled guilty in August 2015 to a charge of making a false statement to obtain unemployment compensation. The offense involved claims for unemployment compensation that she submitted for a time period in which she was working on the 2010 District of Columbia mayoral campaign. She was sentenced to probation.
Those who have pleaded guilty in the broader investigation were the following:
Lee A. Calhoun: Calhoun, an executive for one of Thompson’s companies, pled guilty in June 2013 to a federal charge of knowingly and willfully permitting the name of one or more persons to be used to make campaign contributions in the name of another person and aiding and abetting campaign contributions to be made in the name of another. The offense stemmed from a scheme in which he and others helped disguise that Thompson and Thompson’s company were the actual source of more than $150,000 in contributions to federal, District of Columbia, and other political campaign committees and political action committees.
Stanley Straughter: Straughter, the owner of a business based in Philadelphia, Pa., pled guilty in June 2013 to a federal charge of knowingly and willfully making, and aiding and abetting and causing to be made, unlawful corporate campaign contributions to federal campaigns. The offense stemmed from a scheme in which he and others helped conceal the fact that Thompson and one of Thompson’s companies were the actual source of more than $125,000 in contributions to various federal, state and local campaigns.
Troy White: White, the owner of a marketing company based in New York, pled guilty in September 2013 to a federal tax charge stemming from his failure to file corporate income tax returns, including failing to report more than $600,000 his company received for services it provided in support of a 2008 presidential campaign. He was sentenced to probation.
Kelvin Robinson: Robinson, a former candidate for the Council of the District of Columbia, pled guilty in June 2014 to a charge of conspiring to violate District of Columbia campaign finance laws by defrauding the District of Columbia’s Office of Campaign Finance. The charge involved $33,500 in secret contributions from Thompson to Robinson’s 2010 campaigns for At-Large Member and Ward 6 seats on the Council of the District of Columbia.
Jeff Smith: Smith, a former candidate for the Council of the District of Columbia, pled guilty in June 2014 to filing a false and misleading report with the District of Columbia’s Office of Campaign Finance that concealed campaign contributions in excess of those permitted under D.C. campaign finance laws. The charge involved $140,000 in secret contributions from Thompson to Smith’s 2010 campaign for the Ward 1 seat on the Council of the District of Columbia. Smith was sentenced to 60 days in jail, in addition to community service, probation, and a $10,000 fine.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office remains committed to investigating alleged violations of federal and District of Columbia laws governing the financing of political campaigns in addition to all matters involving allegations of public corruption within the local government.
Updated 1 p.m.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery