Associated Press//November 18, 2014
//November 18, 2014
WASHINGTON — District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray rejected a deal offered by federal prosecutors for him to plead guilty to a single felony count related to activities during his 2010 campaign, a person familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The rejection of the plea deal — in September — makes it likely that any charges against the mayor would come in the form of a grand jury indictment, the person said. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plea negotiations were confidential, said there was no apparent timetable for an indictment against the mayor, who leaves office in January.
Six people who helped get the mayor elected have pleaded guilty to felonies. Federal prosecutors have said that Gray knew about an illegal $650,000 slush fund that aided his campaign and that he personally requested a large chunk of the funds from an influential businessman. The businessman, Jeffrey Thompson, is among those who pleaded guilty. Thompson has admitted his role in wide-ranging political corruption.
The Washington Post was the first to report Gray’s rejection of the plea offer. Gray has maintained his innocence and told The Post in an interview Friday that he had no reason to plead guilty.
“What would I plead to?” Gray said. “I’ve made clear all along what my feelings are about this whole situation. … So I’m not about to change anything.”
Gray declined to comment further to reporters on Tuesday.
The investigation began shortly after Gray took office. The steady trickle of allegations and guilty pleas by his aides and friends placed a cloud over city government and led to calls for the mayor to step down. He lost his bid for re-election in the April Democratic primary to Muriel Bowser, a D.C. Council member, who went on to win the general election.
William Miller, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, declined to comment on the plea offer.
“The investigation involving the 2010 mayoral election is continuing,” he said.
Gray, 72, a longtime public servant, defeated fellow Democrat Adrian Fenty in 2010 and pledged to restore integrity to city government. But his administration was derailed by allegations that his campaign had paid a minor candidate in the mayoral election to stay in the race and make negative comments about Fenty. The candidate, Sulaimon Brown, was hired for a $110,000-a-year job in the Gray administration but was fired after less than a month. Two campaign aides later pleaded guilty to funneling money to Brown.
The investigation later revealed that Gray’s campaign was aided by $650,000 in illicit funds supplied by Thompson. The money was never reported to the city campaign finance officials, and prosecutors referred to the effort as a “shadow campaign.” Much of the money went toward get-out-the-vote efforts in predominantly black neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, where Gray defeated Fenty by huge margins.
Thompson owned a prominent African-American accounting firm and a managed-care company that held the largest contract in city government, worth more than $300 million annually. An ally of Thompson who pleaded guilty to her role in the scheme said he funneled money to Gray because he was concerned about keeping his government contracts if Fenty remained in office. Prosecutors have not alleged that Gray promised anything to Thompson in exchange for his support.i