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D.C.'s corruption spotlight to heat up in September

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

After weeks of relative calm, the federal investigations that all but overtook the District's political scene early this summer are poised to begin a September resurgence Tuesday as a disgraced power broker returns to court.

Thomas Gore, the assistant treasurer of Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 campaign for mayor, is due to appear in U.S. District Court for a status hearing that could determine when he will face sentencing. Gore pleaded guilty in May to charges of destroying evidence -- a notebook of payments to a minor mayoral candidate -- and making illegal campaign contributions.

Although Gore's appearance before Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly will be the first September hearing to draw significant public attention, it will not be the last.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers are scheduled to submit sentencing recommendation memos by Thursday to Judge Richard Leon about the likely different futures they envision for ousted D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown.

Brown will be sentenced on Sept. 20 on a federal bank fraud charge, a felony and a misdemeanor D.C. campaign finance violation.

Under the terms of his plea deal with prosecutors, Brown faces up to six months in prison on the fraud charge. Leon could ignore that agreement and sentence Brown to up to 30 years, but that's highly unlikely because of federal sentencing guidelines.

Brown also faces up to six months in prison for the campaign finance charge, though his plea agreement doesn't spell out a recommended sentence. Because Brown was charged in D.C. Superior Court, a different judge will handle sentencing in that matter.

Fred Cooke, a lawyer who represents both Brown and Gore, did not respond to a request for a comment.

October also promises to be busy.

Weeks after Brown hears his fate, Kollar-Kotelly will turn her attention to Howard Brooks, a consultant for the Gray campaign who admitted to funneling illegal contributions to Sulaimon Brown, the fringe candidate for mayor.

Brooks pleaded guilty in May to lying to the FBI as the agency conducted its probe, and his plea agreement calls for a prison term of up to six months. The maximum sentence by law is five years in prison.

Also in October, Jeanne Clarke Harris, a one-time communications consultant for the Gray campaign, will appear in court for a status hearing. Harris pleaded guilty in July to helping organize a $653,800 shadow campaign to help elect Gray.

The court appearances will take place against the backdrop of a series of continuing federal investigations into the Gray and Brown campaigns, as well as the handling of the District's lottery contract.

"A vigorous prosecution of elected leaders who violated the public trust and break the law is necessary," U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. said in June. "Those who fail to abide by the rules will pay a steep price."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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