Witness Credibility Concerns Derailed Vincent Gray Shadow Campaign Investigation: Sources

Prosecutors expected to release documents from investigation Friday

What to Know

  • Credibility of star witness Jeffrey Thompson faltered as prosecutors investigated allegations about his sexual relationships.
  • Washington Post filed suit for release of records from the investigation.
  • Gray's lawyer warned he would use Thompson's personal life if Gray went to trial, sources said.

The federal investigation into former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray ended in part because of serious questions about the credibility of star witness Jeffrey Thompson, the Washington Post reported and sources told to News4.

Thompson’s credibility faltered last year as prosecutors investigated allegations about his sexual relationships with men and uncertainty about the ages of some of those men, the Washington Post reported.

Federal prosecutors are expected to release new information from the shadow campaign investigation that troubled Gray while he was mayor.

The Post filed suit to release records from the investigation, saying it wanted to answer a key question: Why prosecutors never brought charges against Gray despite clear public signals Gray's indictment was likely.

Gray's case was dropped in December.

Sources said Gray's lawyer, Robert Bennett, warned prosecutors Thompson's private life included questionable sexual relations with a variety of men and possibly some under age and that would be used against Thomson if Gray went to trial. The Post's report Thursday disclosed how the allegations about Thompson, including possible money and gifts to hide sexual relationships, undermined Thompson's credibility should he take the stand in a trial.

Earlier this week, Bennett declined to comment.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said it is not in a position to comment on the case.

Earlier this week, attorneys for Thompson declined to comment on any aspect of the investigation. Thompson couldn't be reached.

Gray is running for the Ward 7 seat on the D.C. Council against incumbent Yvette Alexander, who supported him as mayor.

"As far as I'm concerned, that investigation concerning me was closed on Dec. 9 of 2015, and that's exactly where I leave it at this point," Gray said Thursday.

Twelve people pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the investigation, which uncovered evidence of more than $3.3 million in illegal contributions to various campaigns between 2006 and 2011.

Thompson admitted setting up an illegal $660,000 slush fund that aided Gray's campaign. Prosecutors said Gray knew about the money.

Gray lost his bid for re-election to Mayor Muriel Bowser but maintained his innocence throughout the investigation.

Background of the Investigation

When Sulaimon Brown ran against Gray and former Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2010, he would lash out at Fenty during debates. After Gray’s victory, Brown got a job with a $110,000 salary as special assistant at the Department of Health Care and Finance in Gray's administration, but later was fired.

Then Brown told reporters he was paid by Gray's campaign to attack Fenty in return for the job, which is illegal under D.C. law.

When Brown went public with his allegations, Gray’s assistant campaign treasurer, Thomas Gore, and another campaign consultant, Howard Brooks, tried to cover up what they were accused of doing. Federal prosecutors said Gore used campaign cash to buy blank money orders that Brooks delivered to Brown.

The 'Shadow Campaign'

When former U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen began investigating Brown’s allegations, his office unearthed the shadow campaign.

Money for paid canvassers who were put up in hotels and ferried around town in rented vehicles with paid drivers distributing thousands of yard signs, stickers and car magnets came from a D.C. businessman, federal prosecutors said. News4 sources identified him as Thompson, who owns several companies, including DC Chartered Health Plan, the most lucrative government contract in the District.

Thompson wrote checks worth $653,000 to his longtime friend Eugenia Clarke Harris, federal prosecutors said. She pleaded guilty in July 2012 to funneling the money through her PR company so the shadow campaign could buy thousands of political T-shirts, yard signs and other campaign gear.

Guilty Pleas

On May 22, 2012, Gore became the first person to plead guilty in the investigation on one count of obstruction of justice and three counts of making campaign donations in the name of another person.

Two days later, Brooks pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators, telling a judge he was instructed to pay Brown for the attacks on Fenty. Brooks acknowledged in U.S. District Court giving $2,810 in money orders to Brown, but he did not reveal who told him to pay Brown.

June 10, 2013, former Council member Michael Brown pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from undercover FBI agents and agreed to cooperate in the investigation into Gray’s campaign and its connection to Thompson. Charging documents revealed he received $20,000 in off-the-books campaign contributions from Harris.

Lee Calhoun, the first Thompson insider to face charges in the investigation, pleaded guilty June 20, 2013, to making false campaign contributions and accepting reimbursements for them. He made $160,000 in straw donations – including $76,000 to D.C. campaigns – over the course of 10 years.

Philadelphia businessman Stanley Straughter, who has done consulting work for Thompson, pleaded guilty June 24, 2013, to making $132,600 in political contributions for which he was reimbursed.

In March 2014, Jeffrey Thompson admitted to setting up an illegal $660,000 slush fund that aided Gray's campaign. A few months later, Mark Long pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the District's Office of Campaign Finance by funding and concealing contributions that exceeded those allowed under campaign finance laws. 

Five other people pleaded guilty to offenses directly involving or connected to the 2010 mayoral election.

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