Deal Made In District Election Scandal
Friday, February 24, 2006
Two campaign workers who were implicated in the petition scandal that marred the reelection effort of Mayor Anthony A. Williams have pleaded guilty to criminal charges, the D.C. attorney general announced yesterday.
But Scott Bishop Jr. and his wife, Crystal, could have those pleas wiped off the books. That's because they agreed to cooperate with the prosecution in a case against Bishop's father, who oversaw the drive for signatures to place Williams (D) on the ballot in 2002.
The elder Bishop, who is charged with 279 misdemeanor counts, lives in Maryland and is being sought by authorities. In return for their cooperation, Scott Bishop Jr. and Crystal Bishop could withdraw their guilty pleas, and those charges could be dropped, authorities said.
The couple pleaded guilty Wednesday in D.C. Superior Court to four counts each of making a false statement, the attorney general's office said late yesterday. If they fail to honor the plea agreement, the couple could face two-year jail terms and fines of $4,000 each, authorities said.
The criminal case against the Bishops arose from events in the 2002 mayoral race. Williams, running for a second term, was pulled off the Democratic primary ballot by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics after questions surfaced about the validity of many of the signatures collected to place him on the ballot.
Investigators determined that most of the signatures were collected by campaign workers who might have violated city law. More than 6,000 of the 10,000 signatures had been collected by the Bishops, who, investigators said, failed to witness signatures and failed to ensure that the signers were registered voters.
Williams won the primary as a write-in candidate and was reelected.
The investigation into the petitions passed through many agencies: first the FBI, then the U.S. attorney's office and finally the D.C. attorney general's office. It wasn't until last summer that any charges were filed, and then only against the Bishops.
Scott Bishop Jr. was initially charged with 81 misdemeanor counts, and Crystal Bishop was charged with 123 counts.
D.C. Attorney General Robert J. Spagnoletti said the pleas this week mark an important step forward in the case.
"Although the matter is nearing conclusion for Scott Bishop Jr. and Crystal Bishop, my office is pursuing to the fullest extent of the law the charges against Scott Bishop Sr.," Spagnoletti said in a statement.
Staff writer Yolanda Woodlee contributed to this report.