WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - The view as of Tuesday in legal circles is that Mayor Vincent Gray’s days are numbered before the hammer drops – even if the accuser may seem worse off than the target.
Influential District of Columbia businessman Jeffrey Thompson came to court by taxi on Monday in a plea agreement that implicates D.C. Mayor Gray as an alleged co-conspirator in violating D.C. campaign laws.
The 58-year-old Thompson has long been suspected of funding what prosecutors called a $653,000 "shadow campaign" for Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray in 2010. He was charged Monday with conspiring to violate federal campaign finance laws and submit false filings to the Internal Revenue Service and conspiring to violate district campaign finance laws.
Prosecutors claim that Gray knew about the "shadow campaign." Gray was also expected to refer to Thompson as “Uncle Earl" as part of the deal.
D.C. Mayor Gray said to ABC7 on Monday that he had been looking forward to this day, thinking it would be when Jeffrey Thompson finally makes a plea deal to clear him.
But Gray admitted on Monday that while the unexpected allegations are not true, less than a month before an important primary election, Thompson has smeared him.
Gray also said that occasionally, he did call Thompson "Uncle," but that he wants the public to believe it did not involve what Thompson was talking about.
Thompson pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts – one federal and one D.C. for financing numerous off-the-books shadow campaigns.
Five of Thompson's associates have also pleaded guilty in federal court, including two who worked on Gray's 2010 campaign. Two other associates pleaded guilty to making straw contributions to political candidates on his behalf, and another acknowledged using illicit funds to help Hillary Rodham Clinton run for president in 2008. The cases outlined Thompson's extensive financial backing of his favored candidates for federal, state and local office.
Chuck Thies, manager for the Vince Gray 2014 campaign, released a statement Monday afternoon in response to the charges, calling much of it "innuendo," and pointing out that the same language in the charging documents regarding Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 campaign is used against Gray's 2010 campaign.
"We anticipate that political opponents and some media outlets will use the language about the 2010 election to suggest, 'Gray knew,' while at the same time ignoring the language about the 2008 presidential election," said Thies. "Media outlets who give credibility to this innuendo are doing a disservice to justice and voters."
"For too long, Mayor Gray's political opponents, pundits and even news organizations have relied on innuendo instead of facts," Thies continued. "No one has suggested that Hillary Clinton knew of Thompson's illegal activities. Mayor Gray has not been afforded the same presumption of innocence."
"In the Thompson charging documents, boilerplate language is used to describe all the campaigns that Thompson sought to illegally influence: Clinton's, Gray's and many others. We urge the media to be cautious when reporting the facts of this case and avoid the innuendo that our political opponent will gladly promote as gospel."
Thies said Gray is just as eager as everyone else for the results of the investigation to be out in the open.
"Mayor Gray called for this investigation. Mayor Gray has always said he did not break any laws," said Thies.
On Monday afternoon, Councilmember and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells released a statement saying:
This is a sad day for DC government, but justice is prevailing. The US Attorney has ensured that Jeffrey Thompson won’t get away with illegally putting a mayor and councilmembers in office so he could get multi-million dollar contracts.
I’m the only candidate running for mayor who has never taken money or benefitted from Jeffery Thompson or his associates. That’s why I was never subpoenaed or questioned in this case – unlike the other Councilmembers. Muriel Bowser, Vincent Orange, Jack Evans were all subpoenaed. I’m the guy who Jeffrey Thompson tried to defeat – because I guess he knew I couldn’t be bought.
People deserve to know their government isn’t corrupt.
Early Monday evening, U.S. Attorney General for the District of Columbia Ron Machen held a live press conference, explaining that "Jeff Thompson's guilty plea pulls back the curtain to expose widespread corruption..."
He also continued to say that "year after year, election after election, D.C. voters were deceived...If you participated in backroom deals with Jeffrey Thompson, I urge you now to come forward. I promise you we are not going away."
A copy of the Thompson charging documents can be seen online.