Got a Scandal? Fred Cooke Jr. Is Your Guy

DC corruption is keeping the defense lawyer busy.
Fred Cooke Jr. Photograph by Sarah L. Voisin/Getty Images.

As federal prosecutors pick off DC Council members and Mayor Vincent Gray’s campaign aides, the casework is piling up for defense lawyer Fred Cooke Jr., who, by the latest tally, has represented four of the figures embroiled in the corruption scandals plaguing the DC government.

When the feds began investigating then-Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas Jr. last year for stealing more than $350,000 of taxpayer money, Thomas called on Cooke, as did then-DC Council chair Kwame Brown when he was nailed for felony bank fraud and violating local campaign-finance laws. As the investigation into Gray’s 2010 campaign intensifies, more clients are lining up. Cooke represents Thomas Gore, an assistant treasurer for Gray’s campaign, who pleaded guilty in May to campaign-finance violations. Cooke also represents Jeanne Clarke Harris, a public-relations consultant on the campaign who pleaded guilty to conspiring to evade political-contribution limits.

It’s not surprising that officials go to Cooke when in legal trouble. He’s had decades of practice defending arguably DC’s toughest client: Marion Barry. Cooke was the city’s corporation counsel when Barry was mayor, then became Barry’s personal lawyer. He’s modest when asked how he became the go-to attorney for embattled city officials : “People hire me or not. It’s not rocket science.”

Maybe not. But defending Barry through seemingly endless legal and PR disasters is surely some kind of science.

This article appears in the September 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She was previously a reporter for Legal Times and the National Law Journal. She has recently written about the Marriott family’s civil war and the 50-year rebirth of 14th Street, and reported the definitive oral history of the Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt case. She lives in Northeast DC with her husband, two dogs, and two cats.