Hawkins, 74, also described to prosecutors apparent coordination between Gray’s official campaign and the illicit operation, and detailed how he participated in a scheme to obstruct the federal investigation.
Prosecutors have not alleged that Gray (D) knew of the illicit happenings laid out in the Hawkins case or in previous prosecutions of campaign figures. But the admission of illegal activity by a man who was once among Gray’s most trusted political hands threatens to greatly complicate the mayor’s pending decision on whether to seek a second term. Gray has denied any wrongdoing.
Hawkins pleaded guilty to a count of making false statements — a felony charge for which, under his plea deal with prosecutors, he can expect to serve up to 16 months in prison.
U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said that Hawkins was “at ground zero of a scheme to design, staff, and execute an off-the-books shadow campaign.”
“This guilty plea takes us one step closer to understanding the extent of the deception that tainted the 2010 campaign,” he said in a statement released after the hearing.
In court papers and under questioning in the courtroom Tuesday, Hawkins described how he developed an independent “get-out-the-vote” effort for Gray starting in June 2010 through discussions with Jeanne Clarke Harris, a public relations consultant and close Thompson associate, and later with Thompson himself.
The operation was refined over the following weeks, Hawkins indicated, including in a conference call involving himself, Harris and Thompson. The secret effort included renting vans and hiring drivers, canvassers and coordinators to get Gray voters to the polls, the court papers said.
Thompson has not been identified in court filings, but several people familiar with the investigation say he is the “Executive A” referred to in several prosecutions, and court records show he is the subject of a grand jury probe. His attorney, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., has declined to comment on the investigation and did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.
Harris pleaded guilty last year to funneling Thompson’s money through companies she owned to fund the illegal effort for Gray, revealing for the first time the extent of the shadow campaign. Her attorney, Mark H. Tuohey III, declined to comment.
Detailed for the first time in the court papers filed Tuesday was an apparent relationship between the shadow campaign and Gray’s official campaign. The secret effort’s get-out-the-vote coordinator, identified in documents as “Person Two,” is said to have had an office on the same floor as Gray’s get-out-the-vote coordinator in a building adjacent to Gray’s campaign headquarters.