Big takedowns mark months of D.C. investigations

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Photo - Former D.C. Councilman Kwame Brown (left) and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray
Former D.C. Councilman Kwame Brown (left) and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The District government has always had scandals -- a crack-smoking mayor, an employee who embezzled tens of millions of dollars, cozy city contracts and the like.

But in 2012, federal prosecutors have taken particular aim at a wide swath of the city's top leaders. The work of the feds, which is continuing, has already taken down two sitting members of the D.C. City Council, stained the mayor's image and prompted guilty pleas from a half-dozen other political players.

Here's a snapshot of where things stand.

The scorecard
Politicians who pleaded guilty and resigned
Former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown
Former Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr.
Power brokers who pleaded guilty
Marshall Banks, president, Langston 21st Century Foundation
Howard Brooks, consultant, Gray for Mayor
Danita Doleman, president, Youth Technology Institute
James Garvin, board member, Langston 21st Century Foundation
Thomas Gore, assistant treasurer, Gray for Mayor
Jeanne Clarke Harris, public relations consultant, Gray for Mayor
Tainted politicians
Mayor Vincent Gray

The shadow campaign

What happened? A District businessman -- whom sources have said is city contractor Jeffrey Thompson -- spent more than $653,000 to finance an off-the-books effort to help elect Vincent Gray mayor. Prosecutors say the shadow campaign took place with the knowledge and support of some people within Gray's official apparatus.

Who has been convicted? Only one person -- former Gray consultant Jeanne Clarke Harris -- has been charged in the case. She pleaded guilty in July.

What happens next? Thompson could face charges, as could anyone who knowingly helped the shadow campaign. Gray has denied knowing about any wrongdoing.

Paying Sulaimon

What happened? Sulaimon Brown was a minor mayoral candidate who claimed that the Gray campaign paid him to remain in the contest to attack Adrian Fenty, the incumbent and Gray's rival. Brown also said he was promised a job in the Gray administration.

Who has been convicted? Thomas Gore, the Gray campaign's assistant treasurer, and Howard Brooks, a campaign consultant, pleaded guilty to trying to cover up the scheme.

What happens next? Gray has denied knowing of any illegal activity on this matter, too. Brown also claimed Gray campaign chairwoman Lorraine Green knew of the plot. Her attorney has said she is cooperating with investigators.

Bank fraud for a boat

What happened? Federal authorities looking into the 2008 campaign of D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown found that he lied about his income on a mortgage application to buy "Bullet Proof," a powerboat. The probe also turned up evidence that Brown broke a city campaign finance law.

Who has been convicted? Brown pleaded guilty to a felony and a misdemeanor. He has agreed to cooperate as the investigation continues.

What happens next? Brown is scheduled for sentencing in September. Others could also face charges as Brown gives details of the scheme to prosecutors.

The D.C. lottery debacle

What happened? A former city official alleged top politicians exerted pressure on him to void the District's lottery deal with a company whose local partner was a businessman who had detractors at the Wilson Building. The ultimate winner of the deal was the same company, just with a different local partner.

Who has been convicted? No one yet, but a federal grand jury is looking into whether any bribes were paid.

What happens next? Grand juries operate in secret, but there are only two options: charge someone or end the probe.

Stealing from children

What happened? Then-Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. used nonprofit organizations as intermediaries to accept grant money from the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. and pass it on to him.

Who has been convicted? Thomas and three associates pleaded guilty to various roles in the scheme. In June, Thomas began a 38-month prison sentence. The others -- Marshall Banks, Danita Doleman and James Garvin -- have not been sentenced yet.

What happens next? Prosecutors are still digging, and more charges could be on the horizon.

Citing the investigation, Millicent West, who was president of the partnership at the time of Thomas' thefts, resigned as the District's homeland security chief in January.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Author:

Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner