Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s fourth State of the District address was supposed to offer him a big stage to propose new initiatives on education, housing and economic development just three weeks ahead of a closely fought Democratic primary.
But a day after federal prosecutors unveiled new allegations against him, it also became an opportunity for Gray to address the festering controversy in front of a friendly crowd.
“I say this to all of you, clearly and unequivocally: I didn’t break the law,” Gray said in front of several hundred at Kelly Miller Middle School in Northeast Washington. The crowd gave him a standing ovation and chants of “four more years.”
Prosecutors on Monday said Gray was aware of a secret, off-the-books funding scheme financed by businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson, who pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to felony conspiracy charges. Gray has not been charged.
Gray said residents should judge his credibility versus Thompson’s.
“Who do you believe?” he asked. “A greedy man attempting to save himself? Or me, a public servant who has dedicated his entire career to giving back to our communities?”
The comments on Thompson came near the beginning of a 65-minute address that touched on the city’s advances in education, economic development and unemployment before rolling out several new Gray administration initiatives that will be included in the mayor’s 2015 budget proposal due next month.