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Prosecutors won’t seek jail time for Gray aide cooperating in probe

- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2012

Citing his "substantial assistance" to their ongoing investigation, federal prosecutors on Monday said they are not seeking prison time for an aide to Mayor Vincent C. Gray's 2010 campaign who admitted he paid a minor mayoral candidate with the hope he would stay in the race and bash incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

Howard L. Brooks pleaded guilty in May to making a false statement by lying to FBI agents on April 6, 2011, when he claimed he had not given candidate Sulaimon Brown a series of money orders totaling $2,810 in the summer of 2010.

In a sentencing memo filed Monday, prosecutors said they were fine with a period of probation for Brooks on the condition he perform 200 hours of community service and not participate in any political campaigns without written approval from the probation department.

Prosecutors noted that Brooks "lied repeatedly about his involvement" in the payment scheme.

"But eventually, Brooks took full responsibility for his crimes and provided substantial assistance to the government," Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen Epstein said in the memo. Brooks is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 10.

Mr. Brown publicly accused Brooks and other members of the mayor's campaign of the scheme in early 2011 after he was fired from a $110,000-per-year job at the D.C. Department of Healthcare Finance, kicking off a long-running probe into the Gray campaign that has secured guilty pleas from three people so far. The investigation is one of three high-profile investigations spearhead by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.'s office over the past two years, including two that prompted the resignations of D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown and council member Harry Thomas, Ward 5 Democrat.

On Monday, a U.S. District judge decided Brown's sentencing will be postponed from this month to Nov. 13 to allow the former council boss "to complete his cooperation" with the investigation. Brown pleaded guilty in June to felony bank fraud and a misdemeanor campaign finance violation related to his 2008 campaign for reelection as an at-large council member.

Thomas is serving a three-year term at a federal prison in Alabama for stealing more than $350,000 in public funds intended for D.C. youth sports programs.

Brooks, meanwhile, is one of three persons to plead guilty to crimes related to their work on the Gray campaign.

Court papers say Brooks, assistant campaign treasurer Thomas W. Gore and a third campaign worker met in June 2010 and that Brooks "was instructed" to make payments to Mr. Brown's campaign. Gore and Brooks also recruited Brooks' relatives and friends to sign their names on five money orders totaling $660 for Mr. Brown's campaign, according to prosecutors.

Gore pleaded guilty to covering up the Brown payments shortly before Brooks' plea, although prosecutors signaled he plays a continuing role in their investigation by delaying his sentencing until at least December.

Last year, Brown claimed that Brooks was the bagman who paid him to stay in the race. He also alleged Mr. Gray had promised him the city government job and knew about the payments and that the mayor's campaign chairman, Lorraine Green, played an active role in the scheme.

Mr. Gray has denied knowing of the scheme in the past, but in recent months he has asked the public to "let the investigation play out" while he conducts the city's business.

Ms. Green, who has not been charged, testified before the D.C. Council last year that she had no involvement in any payments to Mr. Brown, did not think his candidacy needed help and did not appreciate his outlandish criticism of Mr. Fenty.

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