- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A former campaign aide to D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray was sentenced in federal court Wednesday to 24 months of probation for lying to investigators looking into payments made from the 2010 campaign to a minor mayoral candidate.

Howard L. Brooks, 64, who worked on the Gray campaign’s finances, pleaded guilty in May to making a false statement to FBI agents when he claimed he had not given Sulaimon Brown a series of money orders totaling $2,810 in the summer of 2010. The offense was punishable by up to five years in prison, though sentencing memorandums filed in the federal case indicated that prosecutors were willing to forgo jail time for probation because Brooks “substantially assisted the government” in other areas of its investigation.

“After 20 months of anguish, pain and embarrassment, I stand before you with a contrite heart,” Brooks told Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly during his sentencing. “If I could turn back time, I would probably make better choices.”

Judge Kollar-Kotelly also ordered that Brooks complete 200 hours of community service and not work or volunteer with any political campaign unless he receives prior written approval from the U.S. Probation Office.

“The last thing he intends to do is work on a political campaign,” Brooks’ attorney Glenn F. Ivey said during the sentencing. “I’m not even sure if he’s watching C-SPAN now.”

Noting that Brooks currently survives on his own Social Security benefits, his wife’s disability payments and some financial help from his two sons, Judge Kollar-Kotelly declined to order Brooks to pay a fine.

Brooks and Mr. Ivey were the only people to speak on Brooks’ behalf during the brief sentencing at the U.S. District Courthouse. Both declined to comment afterward.

While Brooks initially declined to cooperate with the federal investigation — even denying that his own handwriting was on several money orders that investigators possessed — Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen Chubin Epstein said at the sentencing that he eventually “turned a corner.”

Noting that several documents detailing Brooks’ cooperation are still under seal in court, Mr. Ivey described Brooks’ help to federal investigators as “Herculean efforts” to right his wrongs.

The ongoing federal investigation has revealed numerous misdeeds within the Gray campaign, though Mr. Gray has not been implicated. On Wednesday, prosecutors did not indicate where the investigation would go next.

“This scheme was not Mr. Brooks’ idea,” Ms. Epstein said.

Both Brooks and Mr. Gray’s assistant campaign treasurer, Thomas W. Gore, made payments to Mr. Brown in order to sustain his campaign so he could continue to verbally attack then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty at debates and other forums during the Democratic primary campaign in 2010, prosecutors have previously said.

Gore pleaded guilty to one felony count of obstruction of justice and three misdemeanor campaign-finance violations, but has not been sentenced.

Prosecutors said Brooks bought three $500 money orders at a 7-Eleven near his home July 30, 2010, and delivered them blank to Mr. Brown three days later. Mr. Brown deposited one into his campaign account and cashed the other two, prosecutors said.

Charging documents say that on Aug. 4, 2010, Brooks bought four money orders — two for $500 each for a relative and two, for $500 and $150, that he delivered to Mr. Brown two days later. Mr. Brown cashed the $500 money order and sent the smaller one to an insurance company, according to charging papers.

In the spring of 2010, Brooks signed the name of a friend on four money orders for $500 that were donated to the Gray campaign and reported under the friend’s name to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said he also obtained four money orders from Gore and signed his own name on them as a $2,000 donation to the Gray campaign, even though Brooks had not contributed the money himself.

When confronted with information about the payments during a meeting with FBI agents on April 6, 2011, officials said Brooks lied five times.

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