Next month, it’ll be a year since Vince Gray 2010 shadow campaign financier Jeff Thompson pleaded guilty and took Gray’s re-election campaign down with him. With Thompson’s one-time candidate out of office, things are about to wrap up, right?
No way. Earlier this week, Thompson, henchwoman Jeanne Clarke Harris, and two Thompson straw donors had the next hearings in their cases, each scheduled for this month, moved to late May. They join other Thompson associates Vernon Hawkins, Mark Long, and Kelvin Robinson on the endless carousel of delayed hearings.
Given the elaborate logic of the plea deals—-people with dirt on Thompson can’t be sentenced until he finishes cooperating, and he can’t finish cooperating until the feds charge or give up on Gray—-this could go on for even longer. Prosecutors’ explanation for the delayed hearings: “the defendant’s cooperation in the on-going criminal investigation.” A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Ron Machen didn’t respond to LL’s request for comment about the investigation into Gray, who has repeatedly said he didn’t do anything wrong.
Hearings for the case’s many federal cooperators have been moved many times before. Harris is approaching the third anniversary of pleading guilty in May 2012, while Hawkins and straw donors Stanley Straughter and Lee Calhoun are nearing their second year since appearing in federal court.
The new hearing dates for Thompson and associates come right as former hawks on Machen’s pursuit of Gray are starting to wonder whether Machen is ever going to get his man. In December, the Post‘s Colby King wrote that it was time for Machen to charge Gray or let him off. Earlier this month, the Post ed board—-not usually an ally of the ex-mayor’s—-said the same. Meanwhile, Gray, who declined to comment to LL last month on what’s he’s been doing since leaving office, hasn’t taken another job.
For the dwindling number of District residents still following the case, the next date to watch is March 19, when Hawkins has his next hearing. Or, given the way things are going, maybe a couple years after that.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery