A federal judge sentenced two associates of Washington businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson to one year of probation each on Friday for their roles in a long-running scheme in which Thompson pumped more than $3.3 million in illegal contributions to federal, state and District elections.
In cooperation deals with prosecutors, Lee A. Calhoun and Stanley L. Straughter each pleaded guilty in June 2013 to one misdemeanor count of making illegal conduit contributions for Thompson. Calhoun was an employee and Straughter was a consultant to Thompson’s former accounting firm, Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio and Associates.
Straughter admitted to making more than $130,000 in individual and corporate contributions and Calhoun to making more than $160,000 in their names and the names of relatives, disguising the fact that they came from Thompson.
Thompson left the firm in 2012. He faces sentencing Aug. 12 for the nearly decade-long scheme, including secretly orchestrating an illegal $635,000 “shadow” campaign to help the 2010 mayoral bid of Vincent C. Gray, now the Democratic nominee for the Ward 7 D.C. Council seat.
In sentencing Calhoun to an additional $2,000 fine and Straughter to 200 hours of community service, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rebuked them for participating in a “massive” effort to corrupt elections that began as early as 2002 in Calhoun’s case and continued for both until 2011. But the judge gave them sentencing credits, at prosecutors’ request, for cooperating and for their lack of criminal histories.
“The information you provided was important in this case to opening up, providing information about the scheme Mr. Thompson carried out within his company,” Kollar-Kotelly told Calhoun.
“This [Calhoun] was a person who was immediately forthcoming with the government when he was approached. He cooperated from the get-go,” added Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan P. Hooks, who prosecuted the case with Michael K. Atkinson.
But the judge also said there was “no excuse” for going along with a crime that went contrary to their long educational and business backgrounds in political science and international development.
“You should have refused to participate,” Kollar-Kotelly told Straughter. “I’m not sure what your motivation was. Self-interest? Loyalty to Mr. Thompson?”
In their court filings, which emphasized their remorse and family, community and business contributions, Straughter, 74, of Philadelphia and Calhoun, 68, now living in Pompano Beach, Fla., had asked not to face fines.
“I want to apologize to my family and my friends, and certainly to my colleagues for an unfortunate mistake of judgment, and also to thank them for their continued support in this difficult time of my life,” Straughter said in court.
Calhoun’s attorney said that by Thompson’s accounting, about 75 employees acted as “straw donors” and gave more than $500,000 to at least 28 candidates.
Calhoun told the court: “I would just like to apologize to the court for my participation in this matter. I was wrong, and I took responsibility.”