Vernon Hawkins on his way to court on August 13, 2013
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- A former campaign aide to D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray admitted Tuesday to paying a person involved in Gray's campaign to get out of town so that person could avoid FBI investigation.
Vernon Hawkins said in court on Tuesday morning that he provided two $4,000 payments to "Person A", a catering company owner, but says it wasn't his idea. He previously denied asking anyone to leave town. On Tuesday, Hawkins also talked about his interview with investigators, saying "it happened so fast. I wasn't thinking." He had his lawyer present during the interview.
Sources tell WUSA9's Bruce Johnson that Hawkins took money from Jeffrey Thompson and gave it to a man named Lamont Mitchell. Johnson's sources said that Mitchell was given the money so he could go to Australia and avoid talking to the FBI about a shadow campaign.
Sources tell Johnson that Mitchell used to cater breakfast meetings for the DC Council and worked on Mayor Gray's campaign. The sources also tell Johnson that Thompson has put up money for more than one person to leave the area to avoid FBI questioning into a shadow campaign for Gray.
Hawkins was charged with lying to federal agents who were investigating campaign finance violations about what went on in Gray's 2010 campaign. He was a volunteer adviser on Gray's 2010 mayoral campaign and worked for him on previous bids for the D.C. Council. Tuesday morning, Hawkins pleaded guilty to a single count of making a false statement.
U.S. Attorney said: "Vernon Hawkins was at ground zero of a scheme to design, staff, and execute an off-the-books shadow campaign."
Hawkins is now the fourth Gray campaign worker to head to federal court. Campaign worker Howard Brooks pleaded guilty last year in connection to the mayor's illegal shadow campaign - secret money to get him elected.
Hawkins faces up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine with other penalties. Sentencing guidelines recommend between zero and 16 months in prison.
Hawkins released his own statement, saying he's sorry and "I take fully responsibility for my actions. I have tried to correct that mistake and today is an important step."
He will return to court November 12.
As for Mayor Gray, he and his lawyer had no comment on the case.