City Paper is not for tourists
On the eve of Gray campaign aide Howard Brooks‘ guilty plea last week, LL reported that the statement of offense filed in court would mention an unnamed person who knew about Gray campaign funds paid to fringe candidate Sulaimon Brown. That unnamed person, a source told LL, was Gray campaign chairwoman Lorraine Green.
Sure enough, court records filed in Brooks case show that “Person A,” Brooks, and campaign treasurer Thomas Gore had a meeting in which Brooks “was instructed” to make payments to Brown. Person A is only described in court records as a campaign aide who “was a member of several of the campaign’s teams.” In its write up of Brooks’ guilty plea, the Post also pegged Green as Person A.
Green hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing, and her attorney has said Green “has cooperated completely with the investigation, which I believe to be at an end so far as it involves her.” Her lawyer didn’t respond immediately to requests for comment for this post. Neither did Green, who has not responded to multiple requests in recent days.
It’s not clear that simply knowing about the payments to Brown would get Green in trouble. But as we’ve seen with the guilty pleas from both Gore and Brooks, it’s the attempted coverup of those payments, not the payments, that got both of them into seriously hot water. Gore lied to the FBI and shredded a notebook containing records of the payments to Brown. Brooks also lied to the FBI.
We don’t know what, if anything Green, has told the FBI. But we do know what she told the D.C. Council while under oath, and it doesn’t look good for the mayor’s closest friend.
Green appeared before a council committee on May 13, 2011, as part of the council’s very lengthy and mostly fruitless investigation into l’affaire Sulaimon. Here’s an exchange between Green and Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, in which Green denies knowing of any payments Brooks made to Brown.
Cheh: Do you know if Mr. Brooks paid any money to Mr. Brown?
Green: No, I don’t know.
Cheh: Was there ever any indication from Mr. Brooks that he had an occasion to provide money to Mr. Brown?
Green: I’m not aware of that.
Cheh: Do you know if Mr. Brooks made any promises to Mr. Brown of any kind in the mayoral campaign?
Green: No, I’m not aware.
Cheh: Do you know of any actions by Mr. Brooks that would implicate him in criminal activity with respect to Mr. Brown or the campaign?
Green: No, I’m not aware.
So if Green was a meeting where Brooks “was instructed” to pay Brown money and then later says that she’s not aware of “any indication” that Brooks paid Brown money, is that perjury?
LL assumes a good enough lawyer could probably find some shades of gray, and perjury seems like an awfully difficult charge to prove. Recall the case of Judy Banks, Gray’s hapless former H.R. director who swore under oath that Fire Chief Ken Ellerbe hired the son of a former department head from Arizona. Ellerbe, the department head, and her son all testified to the opposite, and emails from Banks supported their version of events. When confronted with these facts, Banks simply told off the committee: “You can’t prove that what I’m saying is not true.” And indeed, no prosecutor appears to have tried. Even if the feds wanted to try to prove Green was aware of the payments when she was made, to get her for perjury, they’d also have to prove somehow that she hadn’t forgotten what she knew by the time she testified; it’s not easy to prove someone was aware of something they said they weren’t aware of.
But where Green may get into more serious trouble is with Congress. Green spoke to investigators with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform during that committee’s investigation of Brown’s claims. Again, we don’t know the full extent of what she said. But the committee report does makes clear that she denied much of Brown’s version of events, which includes meetings at Union Station where Green allegedly gave him cash and introduced him to Brooks as the go-to for Gray campaign moula. Green’s version might end up being the truth, but Brown’s story has been holding up pretty well so far.
Green wouldn’t have to be under oath to get in trouble if she lied to investigators. Baltimore Orioles infielder Miguel Tejada pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 2009 though he wasn’t under oath when he lied about his knowledge of steroid use by other players. And as it turns out, he lied to investigators for the very same committee that interviewed Green.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery