Special to the NNPA from the Washington Informer
(NNPA) – Months into his only term as mayor, Vincent C. Gray surfaced as a central figure in a far-reaching corruption probe, and it turned out that this – as well as leaks and innuendo – were all that was needed to undermine his efforts to win re-election to a second term as chief executive of America’s capital city.
Now, with U.S. Attorney Ron Machen Jr.’s announcement last week that he’s leaving office – without returning an indictment or charges of any kind against Gray – some are more convinced that Machen engaged in a witch hunt.
“I had heard rumors that he said he was leaving, and he did nothing (to resolve the) Gray investigation. This was his highest-profile case,” said Chuck Thies, Gray’s 2014 campaign manager. “For him to leave this high-profile case dangling is reckless. He has already smeared Vince Gray’s’ name. He should be able to say he’ll return indictment or throw out the case.
“He owes it to more than Vince Gray; he owes it to city. He doesn’t care about D.C. and politics. He came out with his dog and pony show, interjected himself into an election and altered the result.”
Thies, a political consultant and former talk show host, said he’s incensed at what Machen did.
“He intimated that Vince Gray was trying to steal an election. There’s a vicious irony in all this. How does Machen dish out justice? He stole the election of 2014. That’s what he did. It’s not up to him to decide what the punishment is. It’s a prosecutor’s job to present evidence and let a judge or jury decide.”
Three weeks before the April 1 Democratic primary, Machen held a news conference to announce that he’d hammered out a plea deal with local businessman, super donor and political kingmaker Jeffrey E. Thompson, in which the maverick pleaded guilty to channeling more than $660,000 into a shadow campaign to pay for voter registration drives, materials and other election efforts for Gray during his 2010 run for mayor.
Most damning was Thompson’s assertion that Gray knew about the shadow campaign and met with him at least twice, requesting large sums of money to finance his campaign.
At the news conference after Thompson’s appearance in federal court, Machen said it was the tip of the iceberg and promised that many more heads would roll. Machen talked about Gray’s purported involvement in a scheme in which Thompson funneled more than $2 million in illegal donations to local and federal campaigns over the course of six years.
“Jeff Thompson’s guilty plea pulls back the curtain to expose widespread corruption,” Machen said at the time. “His plea gives the citizens of D.C. an inside look at the underground, off-the-books schemes that have corrupted election after election, year after year.”
Gray, 71, has always been steadfast in his denials, asserting that he did nothing wrong, adding that Thompson lied to save his own skin.
Machen promised that Gray would be indicted, letting one of the District’s more popular mayors in recent years twist in the wind. Gray supporters argue that if Machen had enough evidence to indict him, he would have done so long ago, and those advocating for fairness and impartiality are asking who will restore Gray’s good name if no indictment ever comes.