Judge postpones hearing for woman in Gray campaign scandal

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder,Vincent Gray

A federal judge agreed Thursday to postpone a status hearing for the woman whose guilty plea last summer sparked demands for D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray's resignation.

Jeanne Clarke Harris, who briefly served as a communications consultant for the Gray campaign and acknowledged last summer that she helped implement a $653,800 shadow campaign to help elect him, had been scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court on Friday for a status hearing.

But Harris' lawyer and federal prosecutors jointly requested a postponement because the government said it would not be asking Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to set a sentencing date. Lawyers also said that because of Harris' health and age, an unnecessary hearing at the Constitution Avenue courthouse would impose "a heavy burden" on her. Harris is in her mid-70s and has mobility issues.

Kollar-Kotelly approved the request and set a new hearing for June 25, nearly one year after Harris pleaded guilty under a deal with prosecutors that left her facing 37 months in prison.

Harris pleaded guilty last July to assisting in the execution of the shadow campaign, which prosecutors said spent its money on payroll and supplies, including tens of thousands of T-shirts, posters, yard signs and stickers "bearing logos, graphics and designs identical to those used by [Gray's] campaign."

Harris is a longtime associate of Jeffrey Thompson, a prolific political contributor to the District who was once the city's largest contractor. People familiar with the investigation, who requested anonymity to discuss the ongoing probe, have said Thompson bankrolled the shadow campaign effort.

Thompson has not been charged with a crime, and his attorneys have declined to comment.

But federal authorities raided his home and offices in March 2012 -- the same night they searched properties with ties to Harris -- and prosecutors have discussed the conduct of a "co-conspirator No. 1" in court papers.

In those records, the business interests of "co-conspirator No. 1" matched those of Thompson, who has all but vanished from the District's political scene.

Although Harris' appearance was postponed, another former Gray campaign aide is still expected to return to court next week.

Thomas Gore, the campaign's assistant treasurer, is scheduled to appear before Kollar-Kotelly on March 28 for a status hearing.

He pleaded guilty in May to obstruction of justice and three local campaign finance charges.

Gore's guilty pleas weren't tied to the shadow campaign. Rather, he acknowledged guilt in a scheme that involved paying a minor mayoral candidate to remain in the 2010 contest to criticize Adrian Fenty, the incumbent and Gray's political rival.

Gray has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing. He has resisted the calls for his resignation that intensified last summer after Harris' plea and has not said whether he will seek a second term next year.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Alan Blinder

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