Aug 15, 4:54 PM EDT

DC businessman gets 3 months' jail for corrupting elections


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AP Photo/Cliff Owen

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A District of Columbia businessman who poured millions of illegal dollars into city, state and federal elections - helping a mayor of Washington get elected and then creating a scandal that helped drum that mayor from office - was sentenced Monday to three months in prison.

Jeffrey Thompson acknowledged setting up a $650,000 slush fund to help Vincent Gray defeat then-mayor Adrian Fenty in 2010. Thompson, 61, also gave more than $600,000 in illegal funds to help Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly went beyond the recommendation of prosecutors in sentencing Thompson to prison. The government had asked for six months of home confinement, partly because of cooperation by Thompson that did not result in criminal charges. The judge ordered Thompson to serve three months of home confinement and three years of probation following his jail term.

The most prominent figure in the scandal was Gray, who denied all wrongdoing and was not charged after a five-year investigation of his 2010 campaign.

When Thompson pleaded guilty in 2014, a prosecutor said in court that Gray knew about the illegal slush fund and personally requested a large portion of the money, and then-U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen detailed Thompson's conduct at a news conference that led many to believe that the mayor would soon be charged. Three weeks later, Gray lost his bid for re-election in a Democratic primary to Muriel Bowser, who is now mayor.

Ultimately, prosecutors declined to charge Gray, in part because of conduct by Thompson they said would damage his credibility on the witness stand. The former mayor, who never lost the support of voters in his home ward, staged a successful political comeback this year, winning a Democratic primary that all but assures him a return to the D.C. Council.

Prosecutors never accused Clinton or any of her 2008 campaign staff of wrongdoing. The longtime Clinton aide who helped bring Thompson's money into the campaign, Minyon Moore, cooperated with the investigation and "was unaware of any inappropriate activities," according to a statement from her employer.

That left Thompson's conviction as the most significant in the government's long-running investigation of corruption in city politics.

"He was the leader, organizer and mastermind of this conspiracy," Kollar-Kotelly said.

Thompson, who apologized in court for his actions, declined to comment after the hearing, as did his attorneys.

In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Atkinson spent more time singing Thompson's praises than detailing his crimes, tracing the defendant's journey from humble origins in rural Jamaica to become the founder of one of the nation's two largest African-American-owned accounting firms. Thompson also owned a managed-care firm that had the largest contract in District government, worth more than $300 million annually.

"Mr. Thompson is a self-made man and was an American success story," Atkinson said.

It was concern about his government contracts, Atkinson said, that motivated Thompson to interfere in city elections. In addition to Gray, Thompson set up so-called "shadow campaigns" for several D.C. Council candidates, including Michael A. Brown, the son of the late Commerce secretary Ron Brown, who is currently serving a three-year prison term for bribery.

The bribery charges against Brown were unrelated to Thompson, but Brown acknowledged receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in shadow campaign funds and other illegal payments. Several of Thompson's co-conspirators also pleaded guilty to felonies in cases that were built on Thompson's cooperation. During the investigation of Thompson and his cronies, prosecutors also secured an unrelated bank fraud conviction against Kwame Brown, then the chairman of the D.C. Council.

Coincidentally, on Monday, the only remaining Council member who received substantial financial backing from Thompson, Vincent Orange, resigned his lame-duck seat to take a job as president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.

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