Court hearing for Gray aide delayed

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

A federal judge has postponed a status hearing for a woman who has pleaded guilty to her role in the shadow campaign that helped elect D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.

Jeanne Clarke Harris, who formerly served as a communications consultant for Gray, was due to appear in U.S. District Court on Wednesday for a status hearing about her case.

But Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on Monday rescheduled the hearing, which will now take place on Dec. 17.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. declined to comment, and a lawyer for Harris did not immediately respond to a message.

Harris pleaded guilty in July to federal fraud and conspiracy charges, as well as a local conspiracy count.

According to court records, Harris helped to funnel money to the campaigns of Gray and other local and federal candidates for political office.

But those contributions weren't from Harris or the other people whose names were attached to the donations. Instead, prosecutors said, an unnamed "co-conspirator" reimbursed Harris and, through her, the others for the donations.

The same co-conspirator funded the $653,800 shadow campaign that was designed to benefit Gray's prospects for the city's top job, Harris acknowledged at a July hearing.

While authorities have not publicly identified the co-conspirator, people familiar with the ongoing federal probe have said it is Jeffrey Thompson, a major city contractor and political donor.

A lawyer for Thompson, who has not been charged, has repeatedly declined to comment on the case.

Gray has also denied wrongdoing and has vowed to finish his term, which expires in January 2015.

Harris was the third person with close ties to the Gray campaign to plead guilty to federal charges as a result of the federal investigation, which began in March 2011.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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