WASHINGTON (AP) — A former campaign aide to District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray was sentenced Wednesday to two years of probation for lying to investigators about under-the-table payments from the Gray campaign to another candidate.
Howard Brooks is one of three former Gray aides who have pleaded guilty to crimes related to the 2010 campaign. Gray defeated incumbent Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary and cruised to victory in the general election.
Brooks admitted he lied to the FBI about giving money orders to Sulaimon Brown, a minor candidate who prosecutors said was paid to stay in the race and disparage Fenty.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for Brooks to receive up to 6 months in prison, but prosecutors said he earned the sentence of probation by providing “substantial assistance” in their ongoing probe of corruption in city politics. The details of his assistance are under seal.
Brooks, a 64-year-old businessman from Silver Spring, Md., with no criminal history and little previous experience in politics, apologized to the court for his conduct, saying he embarrassed himself and his family.
“My life, my reputation has been put on display, with all the pain that goes with it, because I made poor choices,” Brooks said. “If I could turn back the hands of time, I probably would have made better choices.”
Brooks and another aide, Thomas Gore, admitted that they converted excessive or unattributed cash contributions to the Gray campaign into money orders, which they then gave to Brown. They filled in the names of people who had no intention of contributing to Brown’s campaign, including Brooks’ relatives and friends.
Brown received at least $2,810 from the Gray campaign, prosecutors said. Brown was later given a job in the Gray administration, but he was fired after less than a month. He then went public with his allegations about the scheme. The mayor has denied any knowledge of the payments and has not been charged.
A third Gray campaign aide, Eugenia “Jeanne” Clarke Harris, pleaded guilty to her role in a wider-reaching scandal: funneling $650,000 in unreported funds from a district businessman into the Gray campaign. Prosecutors described the effort as a “shadow campaign” and said Gray’s victory was tainted because of it. The mayor resisted calls for his resignation in the wake of the Harris plea.
In addition to probation, U.S. District Judge Collen Kollar-Kotelly ordered Brooks to perform 200 hours of community service. She ruled that he was unable to pay a fine.
“Your actions are surprising considering that you’ve held very responsible positions over the years,” Kollar-Kotelly said. “You seem to have lost your moral compass for a period.”
Brooks also agreed not to participate in any political campaigns without approval from his probation officer. His attorney, Glenn Ivey, said he would have no problem complying with that order.
“The last thing that he intends to do is work on a political campaign,” Ivey said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)