District Mayor Vincent C. Gray is a victim. He's being mistreated by members of the D.C. Council, the media and federal prosecutors. That's the ridiculous propaganda broadcasted earlier this week during a press conference called by two local ministers and attended by two dozen other people, including political operatives and union representatives.
"We believe in fairness and equity. We need to be patient with the legal process and stop all the political grandstanding," said the Rev. Graylan Hagler, senior pastor at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, who, with the Rev. Willie Wilson of Union Temple Baptist Church, organized the event.
"Council persons should chill out; sit down and be quiet," said Wilson, chastising Mary Cheh, David Catania and Muriel Bowser for calling for Gray's resignation. Wilson also called for an investigation of former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's campaign.
That's called a distract and deflect defense.
Disgraced council members Harry Thomas Jr. and Kwame R. Brown deployed it to useless effect. Eventually, each pleaded guilty earlier this year to felonies stemming from two unrelated and ongoing federal investigations.
Johnny Barnes, a lawyer long active in city politics, reminded those at the press conference, "Everything isn't always as it appears."
That clearly was the case in 2010.
District voters thought they had participated in a fair Democratic Party primary. But in the past few months -- thanks in no small measure to U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., the FBI and IRS -- they have learned Gray's campaign pulled off an election fraud unprecedented in the District's history.
The real victims were District voters. But the ministers didn't even mention them. When pressed by me, Hagler declined to discuss whether Gray had any responsibility for what occurred. How about apologizing to citizens? "In due time," Hagler responded.
When is that? This mess started unraveling in Feb. 2011.
That's when Sulaimon Brown, a minor 2010 mayoral candidate, revealed Gray's campaign paid him cash and promised him a job to trash the incumbent during political events. Gray feigned ignorance and called for an investigation. The feds obliged, which underscores the adage "be careful what you ask for."
Thus far, that investigation has affirmed Brown's allegation; Two campaign aides -- Thomas Gore and Howard Brooks -- pleaded guilty to felonies. Jeanne Clarke Harris, a consultant to the campaign and longtime Gray friend, pleaded guilty to multiple offenses. She also confessed to being the bagman for an off-the-books operation that was coordinated with Gray's official campaign. Apparently, government contractor and bundler extraordinaire Jeffrey Thompson provided the money -- $653,800.
Those facts can't be erased by a press conference -- even one held in nearly 100-degree heat, where people were likely to suffer delirium. And the results of a recent Washington Post poll cannot be ignored: Fifty-four percent of residents surveyed said the mayor should resign.
Actually, Gray should consider himself lucky: Despite that overwhelming opposition to his continued service, no one has gone to court seeking to overturn his 2010 primary election victory.
Maybe that's coming.
Jonetta Rose Barras can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jonetta Rose Barras' column appears on Tuesday and Friday. She can be reached at email@example.com.