Harry Thomas Jr. Aide: I’m Not HTJ!
LL's heard of terrible bosses, but this is ridiculous. Former Harry Thomas Jr. staffer Neil Rodgers not only lost his D.C. Council job for his alleged involvement in the disgraced ex-councilmember's grant-steering schemes, but now he claims the feds are trying to prosecute him in place of his old boss.
Rodgers, the only person in the sprawling Thomas investigation who fought the charges, faces 20 years in prison for allegedly funneling, at Thomas' direction, anti-drug money to pay off an inauguration party's $100,000 tab.
Thomas, meanwhile, has less than a year left on the three-year prison sentence he received after pleading out on plundering nearly $500,000 worth of city grants intended for at-risk kids. With no Thomas for the feds to take to trial, Rodgers attorney Billy Martin says that his client is getting the worst of the government's frustrations with the sticky-fingered councilmember.
Martin, who's previously represented football player-turned-dog fighter Michael Vick and city credit card-loving former D.C. Housing Finance Agency head Harry Sewell, says that prosecutors have given him a whopping 100,000 pages of evidence, much of it unrelated to the inaugural ball Rodgers allegedly helped illicitly fund. Instead, the documents relate to other funding schemes Rodgers worked on for Thomas but that don't figure into his indictment.
"Through the trial of Mr. Rodgers, the government will attempt to essentially try its case against Harry Thomas," Martin wrote in one legal motion aimed at excluding the other grants from a trial.
Au contraire, say the feds. In their side of the legal battle that's played out over the past two months, they say that introducing the other bogus grants provides a glimpse into how Rodgers operated. “The proposed evidence is probative of [Rodgers'] knowledge, intent, and modus operandi," prosecutors write in one motion.
While the Jeff Thompson investigation into Mayor Vince Gray's 2010 campaign has featured lower-level players flipping on higher-ups as part of their pleas, Rodgers' case might have the opposite dynamic. Thomas' own plea deal involved cooperating with the government, and he made an unexplained visit to the District two months before the U.S. Attorney's Office charged Rodgers.
Both the U.S. Attorney's Office and Martin declined to comment to LL.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery