Second Gray aide pleads guilty in campaign probe

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DC,Alan Blinder

On the same day a second aide pleaded guilty to a federal charge related to the District’s 2010 mayoral campaign, Mayor Vincent Gray said the scrutiny of the leading the city was draining.

“I’ve been in office for 16 months, but some days, it feels like it’s been 16 years,” Gray said in a Thursday morning speech.

But neither Gray nor his two aides shed any light this week on what the mayor knew about what the aides described in guilty pleas as a fraudulent scheme to corrupt the 2010 election, or when he found out about it.

Howard Brooks, a 64-year-old campaign consultant, admitted in U.S. District Court that he lied to the FBI when he said he hadn’t transferred Gray campaign funds to Sulaimon Brown, a minor mayoral candidate.

“He hit a point where he realized it was time to accept responsibility,” said Glenn Ivey, Brooks’ attorney.

In doing so, Brooks acknowledged he delivered 10 money orders, some in the names of others, to Brown. Brooks coordinated the transactions with two other campaign officials, one of whom, Thomas Gore, has already pleaded guilty to federal and District charges. The other official was unidentified in court records.

“Today’s guilty plea further reveals the underhanded dealings that tainted the integrity of the 2010 mayoral campaign,” U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said. “Although Mr. Brooks’ conduct was egregious, he deserves some credit for owning up to his mistakes and eventually telling the truth.”

Brooks faced a maximum prison term of five years, but under the terms of his plea agreement, he’ll likely serve six months or less in prison, if he’s incarcerated at all.
The precise length of his sentence, which will be determined no earlier than August, will partially hinge on his cooperation with authorities.

Court records indicate Brooks has provided extensive cooperation so far, and his assistance likely helped secure the probe’s other guilty plea.

Earlier this week, Gore, the campaign’s assistant treasurer, pleaded guilty on four charges, including obstruction of justice

At a Tuesday hearing, Gore acknowledged he’d shredded a spiral notebook that contained records of the payments to the Brown campaign. In a filing that Gore said was accurate, prosecutors wrote that Gore had told “Person A” that he had destroyed the ledger.

“Person A” was Brooks, and Gore said federal authorities knew of the conversation between the men because of “a wire.”

Brooks has cooperated with authorities since at least September, six months after Brown publicly claimed the Gray campaign paid him and promised him a city job if he’d remain in the mayoral contest to criticize Adrian Fenty, the incumbent and Gray’s chief rival.

Until this week, though, prosecutors were silent about the findings of their investigation.

But the probe’s public pace has recently quickened, and Machen said the investigation, which includes a broader review of District campaign finance practices, hasn’t concluded

“We continue our efforts to get to the bottom of what happened,” Machen said.
Gray, who has not been charged, has repeatedly declined to comment, as has his attorney.

“There’s an ongoing, pending investigation, so there’s nothing really I can comment on,” Gray said Wednesday after Brooks was charged.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Alan Blinder

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