Sherwood's Notebook: A ‘Likely Insufficient' Ending!

There is at least one loose end to the ending of the federal probe into Vincent Gray's 2010 campaign for mayor.

U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips, a veteran prosecutor who officially has been on the top job in D.C. only a few months, looked over more than four years of details about the federal probe and pulled the plug on it last week.

After a thorough review, Phillips said in a formal statement, "The U.S. Attorney's Office has concluded that the admissible evidence is likely insufficient [emphasis added] to obtain and sustain a criminal conviction against any other individuals."

And with that, Gray and his prominent attorney Robert Bennett rightly claimed victory and vindication. There would be no prosecution of Gray or anyone else in the probe beyond the half-dozen who already had pleaded guilty.

Gray went on something of a media blitz on Tuesday, overtly hinting that he may indeed revive his political career with a 2016 run for a D.C. Council seat, either at-large or Ward 7.

"I think I would stand a great chance in either one of these elections," Gray told Kojo Nnamdi on WAMU 88.5 FM. "Which one would be the better one? That’s something I’ll have to figure out in the weeks ahead."

Gray did say that he might not run for anything next year, but he sounded halfhearted about that. He even suggested he could run for mayor in 2018, presumably against Muriel Bowser, who beat him in 2014. "I think I would have won, period. So maybe we should have a do-over." And then the former mayor laughed quietly.

Gray wasn’t laughing about the long probe: "They owe me an apology. I think they owe the people of the District of Columbia an apology."

Law enforcement sources familiar with prosecutors and defense attorneys tell the Notebook that the probe of the shadow campaign against Gray did come down to a major roadblock. The sources agree that the main witness for the prosecution was businessman Jeffrey Thompson, and they say Thompson could not credibly take the stand against Gray.

The others caught up in the scandal could provide at best corroborating testimony of alleged wrongdoing, the sources agree.

Gray had called Thompson’s claims "lies — all lies."

Thompson’s plea deal with prosecutors suggests he may get no jail time even though prosecutors detailed more than $3 million that he had illegally contributed to a whole series of local and national elections.

Thompson was a prominent businessman, with a nationally successful accounting firm and lucrative medical contracts with the District government worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He was prominent in charity efforts. He was and is a longtime member of the local Washington community.

Why wasn’t Thompson someone prosecutors could rely on on the witness stand?

As we said, loose ends. Loose ends.

■ Alert, not afraid. FBI agent Carl Ghattas is not someone you frequently see in the media. For nearly two years, he has served as the special agent in charge of the Counterterrorism Division of the Washington field office.

This week, the nearly 20-year veteran of the FBI spoke to regional business, community and law enforcement officials about one word: vigilance.

"Our message is vigilance," he told NBC4 outside the closed meeting put on for the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Council of Governments. "We are facing a threat today that is a threat to our entire community."

Terrorism within the United States, whether domestic or international, has gotten more public attention since the San Bernardino massacre.

But rather than be fearful and scared and cowering, law enforcement officials like Ghattas want Americans to live their lives in all our country’s glory.

"People should go about their ... holiday season, .. but be aware of their surroundings," he said.

"We all know there are pieces in our everyday life that fit and don’t fit," added Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. He said citizens shouldn’t be jumpy, but they also shouldn’t hesitate to alert law enforcement to unusual incidents in their ordinary lives. "Let us be the ones that are the tip of the spear to determine whether or not [your] information is something we need to take action on."

Your Notebook has written many times that we are uncomfortable with the security bureaucracy that has enveloped our society over the past 20 years, one that is way too militarized for our comfort. But that doesn’t mean we’re oblivious to the real danger of terrorist attacks. And we can’t let terrorism fatigue blind us from noticing something that may save someone’s life.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

Contact Us