Former Ward 1 D.C. Council candidate Jeff Smith came to D.C. Superior Court today to be sentenced, but he didn’t take it quietly. When he got a chance to talk, Smith accused U.S. Attorney Ron Machen‘s prosecutors of a list of misdeeds in their investigation of the illicit shadow campaign he received from campaign-crime impresario Jeff Thompson, from threatening to prosecute his family members to tricking him with an immunity deal that never materialized to accusing him of committing fraud on a mortgage that he doesn’t even have.
Smith leveled so many accusations against the U.S. Attorney’s Office that the prosecutor on the case made the unusual request for time to deny Smith’s allegations.
“My campaign was not a fraud,” Smith said. “Jeff Thompson was a fraud.”
Smith’s attempt to prosecute the prosecutors didn’t win over Judge Anita M. Josey-Herring, who sentenced Smith to two months in jail, along with a suspended four more months in jail that he’ll likely never serve. Josey-Herring also gave Smith a year of probation and a $10,000 fine, in a sentence she acknowledged was a severe one for Smith’s charge of falsifying a campaign finance report.
The path that lead Smith to his jail sentence began in Dec. 2009, when he began hitting up Thompson for off-the-books money to help Smith’s Ward 1 D.C. Council bid against incumbent Jim Graham and challenger Bryan Weaver.
Prosecutors say Smith benefited from more than $140,000 in illicit contributions from Thompson, exchanges that were documented in a paper trail that includes bank records and an email from Smith to Thompson detailing his desired shadow campaign budget.
Thompson and Smith were in such regular contact, according to prosecutor Jonathan P. Hooks, that Smith asked Thompson for extra money when he wanted to run Internet campaign ads. (If Thompson wanted to protect his lucrative Medicaid contract with the District, he could have picked a better candidate—-Smith came in second in the primary.)
Asking for leniency, court-appointed Smith attorney Blase Kearney praised his client’s “commitment to service” as an education reformer and a former member of the District’s State Board of Education. That dedication was somewhat undermined by the government’s allegations that Smith funneled some of Thompson’s money through a charter school company, then took a cut of it for himself.
Thompson’s help didn’t stop Smith from complaining about the comparatively cushy deal received by Thompson. For cooperating with the government in its investigation of Mayor Vince Gray and others, Thompson’s sentence for multiple corrupt schemes could be as little as six months house arrest.
“He’s the millionaire,” Smith said. “That’s why he’s not here, but I can’t afford an attorney.”
As the marshals closed in on Smith, Josey-Herring agreed to hold off on imposing the sentence until Thursday to give Smith time to find someone to care for his young daughter, whose picture he held up as he asked for a lighter sentence. Josey-Herring recommended that Smith be confined to the Correctional Treatment Facility, a unit next to the D.C. Jail that’s considered more comfortable.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery