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DC Mayoral Scandal: How Far Will it Go?

 

Photo by David Brooks

Photo by David Brooks

As the DC primary mayoral race heats up with 3 weeks to go before the April 1 election, the U.S. Attorney’s office is heating up its potential case against Mayor Vincent Gray. One day before the DC State of the District Address given by Mayor Gray on March 11, businessman Jeffrey Thompson was in court pleading guilty to a conspiracy involving an alleged  shadow election campaign with the mayor in 2010 and other prominent unnamed and named politicians  stemming from 2006- 2012, including the 2008 presidential primary  campaign and  Michael Brown’s 2006 campaign for mayor.

 

According to the government’s case   outlined in a 33 page document, against Jeffrey Thompson presented in federal court, Mayor Gray knew about the shadow campaign that contributed over $650,000 to his campaign and coordinated the shadow campaign with Thompson. Thompson also funded a “street team” shadow campaign in the amount of over $600,000 for a 2008 presidential primary candidate, presumably Hillary Clinton without her knowledge, in Texas, Indiana, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Thompson faces as much as two years to as little as 6 months in federal prison, if he cooperates.  And the judge said prosecutors have discretion to reduce any punishment for Jeffrey Thompson to home confinement. Mayor Gray went on the offensive and labeled Thompson a liar.   Thompson’s next court date is May 15.

 

These are just some of the allegations presented by the government on Monday, March 10:

 

  • Jeffrey Thompson influenced DC union and local elections.
  • Thompson paid Michael Brown $200,000 in 2006 to drop out of the mayor’s race. Brown has already pled guilty.
  • Jeffrey Thompson met with Jeannie Clark Harris and Vernon Hawkins to plan a shadow campaign for the 2010 DC mayoral election. Hawkins and Harris have already pled guilty.
  • Federal prosecutors allege DC Mayor Gray met with Thompson about campaign financing and agreed  “to keep support secret”
  • Thompson disbursed $1.4 million to at least 15 DC candidates.
  • Shadow campaign funds for Mayor Gray’s campaign purchased “yard signs”, “door knockers”, “catering” and other campaign expenses.

 

 

So what does all this mean for Mayor Gray?  It is highly likely that the US Attorney’s office intends to file charges or an indictment against Mayor Gray at some time in the near future with the assistance and cooperation primarily of Jeffrey Thompson.  Gray vehemently denies any allegation of wrong doing.  And in looking at the case, one may wonder why the Mayor does not drop out of the mayoral race. One newspaper has already retracted its endorsement of Mayor Gray following the Thompson plea.  Others still support the mayor as he is innocent under the law of any wrongdoing until proven guilty.  But Mayor Gray may very well have the last hurrah in what may seem to some to be an overwhelming case against him.

 

Jeffrey Thompson received a more than generous plea deal from the government, perhaps too generous.  He received the sweetheart deal in large part because any potential case against Mayor Gray needed the testimony and cooperation of Jeffrey Thompson.  And while this may be jumping ahead, Mayor Gray is making the right move to go on the offensive against the government’s case and brutal allegations against him.

 

The government’s plea deal with Thompson, while a very generous one for businessman Jeffrey Thompson, may become quite problematic to the government if a jury ever has to assess it in a case against Mayor Gray.  Thompson admitted to corrupting national and local elections for many years by funneling illegal money into those campaigns, including Mayor Gray’s campaign.  Through the actions of Jeffrey Thompson, many elections were corrupted by his actions and outcomes may have been affected.   And for all the wrong that Thompson did for many years, he could end up with spending as little as 6 months confined to his home at the discretion of the US Attorney’s office.  While I applaud the efforts of Thompson’s attorneys in procuring such a sweet deal for Thompson, I also wonder if it will undermine any case against Mayor Vincent Gray.  And the deal itself suggests to me as a former prosecutor, that any case against Mayor Gray cannot be made without Jeffrey Thompson. In other words, the government’s case likely rests on the testimony of Jeffrey Thompson.

And in his State of the District Address, Gray defiantly denounced the government’s claims and asserted:  Who do you believe? And that sums up the potential problem for any future government case against Mayor Vincent Gray—a case of credibility of Jeffrey Thompson who will now likely be viewed as someone who will  say anything  or “sing like a bird” to avoid a prison term.  And so, Thompson’s credibility may sink the government’s ship if it sails to a trial.

UPDATED March 13, 2014

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former prosecutor who appears frequently in local, national and international media addressing issues on race, gender and class.  She also contributes to the Women’s Media Center and the Huffington Post. 

 


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