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D.C. corruption hearings start back up Wednesday

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Photo - Mayor Vincent Gray, speaks at a press conference regarding the redevelopment of Skyland shopping center in southeast Washington D.C. Wednesday, September 26th, 2012
Mayor Vincent Gray, speaks at a press conference regarding the redevelopment of Skyland shopping center in southeast Washington D.C. Wednesday, September 26th, 2012
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

Step aside, John A. Wilson Building: The federal courthouse is poised to become the ground zero of District politics on Wednesday and Thursday as several key players in ongoing corruption probes appear in court.

Prosecutors could hint at the standing of the long-running investigation of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 campaign when Thomas Gore, the campaign's assistant treasurer, appears for a status hearing.

Gore pleaded guilty in May to destroying evidence and making illegal campaign contributions to Sulaimon Brown, a minor mayoral candidate who alleged the Gray campaign promised him cash and a job in exchange for his agreement to remain in the contest and attack Adrian Fenty, the incumbent.

Wednesday's appearance will be his second status hearing since he entered his plea, and it could lead to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who is overseeing the criminal cases involving the Gray campaign, setting a sentencing date.

She has not scheduled sentencing in the past because prosecutors have said the case is ongoing.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. declined to comment Tuesday.

A civil suit that helped spur a grand jury investigation into the handling of the D.C. lottery contract is also on Wednesday's docket.

Lawyers for Eric Payne, a former District contracting officer who claims he was fired for resisting political pressure linked to the lottery deal, will try to persuade a judge to release records from an internal city investigation.

The District has long sought to keep those records shielded from public view, arguing that they contain information from a "confidential source," but Payne has said he thinks the city is covering up for misconduct by Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham.

Graham has denied any wrongdoing, as have other city officials linked to the lottery contract.

The District said Monday it would not oppose releasing some of the documents -- namely two reports written by a former internal affairs official -- but would still seek to block the disclosure of other records.

"The other investigative documents... have never been released to the public and thus remain confidential," the District wrote in a court filing, even though some of those records appeared online last week.

Another significant political corruption probe -- an investigation of former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown's 2008 campaign -- will lead Brown's brother, Che, to plead guilty Thursday to a single count of bank fraud.

Authorities began reviewing Brown's finances after a city audit of Kwame Brown's campaign detected financial irregularities. The federal probe ultimately led to Kwame Brown pleading guilty in June to bank fraud and campaign finance charges and prompted his resignation.

But Che Brown's lawyer, Scott Bolden, said he doesn't think his client will be charged with any crimes relating to campaign corruption.

"Che Brown was charged with bank fraud -- not campaign finance fraud or theft or anything remotely related to his role in his brother's political campaigns," Bolden said.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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