A former D.C. Council candidate pleaded guilty Monday to making a false financial statement to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance during his 2010 campaign.
Just minutes after prosecutors filed the charge in D.C. Superior Court, Jeff Smith appeared before Judge Anita Josey-Herring and entered into a pre-indictment plea to the offense.
According to charging documents, between 2009 and 2010, Smith, with the help of D.C. businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson, made “false and misleading reports to the Office of Campaign Finance.” In March, Thompson pleaded guilty in federal court to funding a “shadow” campaign to help Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) win the 2010 mayoral election by pumping more than $660,000 in donations into the campaign.
Smith becomes the third D.C. candidate in recent months to be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for having unlawful financial connections with Thompson. Earlier this month, Kelvin Robinson, 53, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Thompson to conceal tens of thousands of dollars in political spending during Robinson’s 2010 primary campaigns for an at-large council seat and then a Ward 6 council seat. Former D.C. Council member Michael Brown, who was sentenced to three years in federal prison last month, also admitted to accepting money from Thompson.
Thompson, once a major city contractor, has been cooperating with federal investigators after admitting in March that he illegally contributed more than $2 million to the campaigns of more than two dozen federal and local candidates during a six-year period. His allegation that Gray helped orchestrate the off-the-books spending in 2010 came just weeks before the mayor was defeated in the April Democratic primary. The mayor has not been charged with a crime and has accused Thompson of lying about Gray’s alleged involvement in the campaign finance scheme.
As part of Smith’s plea deal, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Hooks outlined for the judge that in March 2010, during Smith’s campaign, Smith sent an e-mail to Thompson in which he wrote that he needed more than $140,000 to help fund Smith’s voter registration efforts. Thompson supplied the funds, which was a violation of the city’s campaign contribution laws. Smith then filed a “false and misleading” report with the city’s campaign finance office.
Smith, who served as executive director for D.C. Voice, an educational reform group, faces a maximum of five years in prison. But as part of the plea deal, his attorney said prosecutors agreed to argue for not less than six months and no more than two years.
Also as part of Smith’s plea, prosecutors agreed not to file additional charges against Smith. Prosecutors also agreed not to charge any of Smith’s relatives in connection with the case. U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Bill Miller declined to name those family members.
Josey-Herring, following custom for plea hearings, asked Smith if he was “satisfied” with his attorney, Blaise Kerney, of the D.C. Public Defender Service. Smith, who holds a law degree from Howard University, told the judge that he and his attorney had met only a couple of weeks ago but that Kerney was “outstanding” and also “the best counsel I could afford.”
After the hearing, Smith was ordered to D.C. police headquarters, where he was scheduled to be booked and fingerprinted. He then was expected to be released and return home.
Smith is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 28.
Emma Brown contributed to this report.