A former aide to Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 campaign was sentenced to two years of probation Wednesday for lying to federal agents about campaign finance violations that federal prosecutors say tainted the mayoral election.
Howard Brooks, 64, pleaded guilty in May to one felony charge of making a false statement to FBI agents about helping to funnel illicit payments to the campaign of a fringe mayoral candidate and to Gray’s own election effort.
Brooks, once a top salesman for two Fortune 500 companies, told U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that he had been “humbled” by his errors and pleaded for leniency.
“I made poor choices,” Brooks told the judge. “I did break the law, and for that I’m truly sorry.”
Kollar-Kotelly called the crime a serious one that “could warrant jail time,” noting that Brooks’s lies “could have derailed” a federal investigation of an important matter. But she said probation and 200 hours of community service was the proper punishment because Brooks had accepted responsibility for his actions and led an otherwise exemplary life.
“You seem to have lost your moral compass for a period,” she told Brooks.
The judge also cited Brooks’s extensive cooperation with federal authorities, which was detailed in a document filed under seal. Federal prosecutors argued in court papers that Brooks had been so helpful that he deserved only probation and community service. His offense carries a maximum prison sentence of 5 years, although Brooks faced only up to six months in jail under guidelines that took his cooperation into consideration.
Prosecutors have declined to comment on the nature of Brooks’s help. But sources have said he wore a recording device that captured another campaign aide on tape admitting he destroyed a ledger of illegal campaign payments.
Brooks and his attorney, Glenn F. Ivey, declined to comment after the hearing, as did Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen Chubin Epstein.
Brooks was on the finance and treasury teams of Gray’s 2010 campaign for mayor. At the time, Gray was the D.C. Council chairman and was engaged in an election fight with then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in the Democratic primary.
Shortly after Gray took office, a fringe candidate alleged that he had accepted money and a job offer in Gray’s administration in return for staying in the race to assail Fenty. Brooks later admitted in the District’s federal court that he had diverted $2,810 in Gray campaign funds to that candidate, Sulaimon Brown, through hard-to-trace money orders. Brooks also said that he provided $2,000 in straw donations to Gray’s campaign.
He was the second Gray campaign staffer to plead guilty to a federal charge related to illicit campaign payments. Thomas W. Gore, 56, admitted that he obstructed justice by shredding a notebook containing records of payments to Brown and that he violated some D.C. campaign finance misdemeanors. No sentencing date has been set in Gore’s case.