As indictments of minority elected officials continue to pile up, some leaders have openly suggested, while offering scant evidence, that a conspiracy exists to remove blacks and Latinos from power. But U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, one of two federal prosecutors responsible for bringing many of the recent corruption charges, outright rejected any conspiracy theories last night.
Headline of the Day: “Sheldon-come-lately”
Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver‘s late-night call to expel disgraced Assemblymen Vito Lopez from office hasn’t helped to temper calls for his head. But most Democratic leaders seem unlikely to push for disciplinary action against the speaker. Gov. Andrew Cu0mo told reporters yesterday he didn’t think it was his place “to say who the speaker is and who the speaker should be.” He added: “I don’t see any comparison between what Vito Lopez and what Shelly Silver did … There is a magnitude of difference.”
On an unrelated note, the governor seems to be raking in the green. His most recent finance disclosure statement, made public Thursday, shows he made between $1.75 million and $2 million. The bulk of his assets are reportedly managed by a blind trust at AMG National Trust Bank.
It is a question few in the New York political establishment dare to ask publicly: is the seemingly endless string of indictments and arrests of elected officials a conspiracy against minorities in power?
But there was Queens State Sen. James Sanders Jr., bellowing in a theater with a preacher’s rhythm, more than implying last night that the recent arrests of black elected officials like Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, State Sen. Malcolm Smith and State Sen. John Sampson were not coincidental. Even State Sen. Shirley Huntley, who admitted to stealing funds earmarked for her district’s underprivileged children and was sentenced Thursday for her crimes, could have been linked to a conspiracy, Mr. Sanders said.
Ironically, Mr. Sanders defeated Ms. Huntley last year–after she was indicted–and took her seat in the State Senate.
Former State Senator Shirley Huntley, who pleaded guilty in February to falsifying evidence and attempting to cover up her embezzle efforts, was sentenced in court today to a year and a day in jail. In addition, she will have to pay $87,700 in restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“The crux of this case has always been the defendant Shirley Huntley’s greed and self-interest,” United States Attorney Loretta Lynch announced in a statement. “Promising to provide much needed assistance to the parents of New York City public schoolchildren, … Shirley Huntley violated the public trust and betrayed her constituents by stealing public funds for her own benefit.”
Ms. Lynch added, “Today’s sentence should send a clear message: we will bring to justice those who corrupt the system of laws upon which our community relies.”
Law & Order
The names caught up in ex-State Sen. Shirley Huntley’s wire-tapping efforts were revealed Wednesday afternoon, leaving elected officials and staffers scrambling to respond to news that they were most likely the subjects of ongoing federal investigations.
The U.S. Attorney’s office had revealed that eight of the nine individuals secretly recorded by Ms. Huntley in an effort to minimize her sentence on embezzlement charges “remain the subjects of ongoing criminal investigations.” And while some offices appeared to be prepared for the news, others seemed completely caught-off-guard. Others still have yet to comment.
The list includes a slew of Democratic lawmakers, including City Councilman Ruben Wills, State Sen. Eric Adams, who is running for Brooklyn borough president, Sen. Jose Peralta, who is running for Queens borough president, and Sen. John Sampson, who was arrested earlier this week on unrelated embezzlement charges.
This afternoon, courts released a sentencing document for State Senator Shirley Huntley, detailing her cooperation with federal authorities in the wake of her arrest in a bribery scheme. After a slew of corruption scandals have rocked New York State politics in recent weeks, including several of Ms. Huntley’s Albany colleagues, particular attention was placed on the names of officials and staffers caught in Ms. Huntley’s wiretaps. There are nine names on the list.
Good Will Huntley
When Lynn Smith, the niece of ex-State Sen. Shirley Huntley, wrote to a federal judge in February to beg for leniency for her indicted aunt, she neglected to mention one crucial fact of her own story: she had pleaded guilty to stealing $30,000 a week earlier.
Ms. Huntley, who will be sentenced tomorrow after pleading guilty to embezzling $87,000 and tampering with physical evidence to obstruct a probe into the theft of member item money she sponsored for a nonprofit, roped Ms. Smith and several other associates into the scheme. Ms. Smith pleaded guilty in February to stealing $30,000 in taxpayer funds from a sham nonprofit group that Ms. Huntley founded. This information was not mentioned in her letter, made public today, to Judge Jack Weinstein.
Several days ago, State Senator James Sanders reacted to the news that his predecessor wore a wire in an attempt to reduce her corruption sentence, by criticizing her for “snitching.” Well, the New York Post didn’t take kindly to that, and this morning, the publication editorialized harshly against Mr. Sanders, claiming he “seems to be endorsing the crime-abetting law of street thugs.”
Mr. Sanders released a follow-up statement this afternoon taking exception to the Post‘s characterization. “Snitching,” Mr. Sanders wrote, was only in the context of entrapment, which he insisted the editorial missed.
The names of all of the lawmakers secretly recorded by disgraced ex-State Sen. Shirley Huntley will be unsealed tomorrow, a federal judge has ruled.
The decision came following a petition by members of the press eager to find out who Ms. Huntley had recorded while wearing a wire last year. Documents filed in federal court last week ahead of Ms. Huntley’s sentencing, revealed that, in an effort to reduce her sentence on embezzlement charges, she had agreed to wear a wire to tape conversations with fellow lawmakers.
Another One Bites The Dust
State Sen. John Sampson will be arraigned Monday afternoon in federal court for his alleged involvement in a brazen embezzlement scheme, involving an elaborate cover-up and an attempt to use stolen cash to fund his campaign for Brooklyn District Attorney, investigators revealed Monday.
According to prosecutors and an indictment unsealed this morning in federal court, Mr. Sampson abused his position as an attorney supervising foreclosed properties for years and allegedly embezzled approximately $440,000 between 1998 and 2008 from escrow accounts he was charged with watching over. He then tried to use some of that money, they charged, to fund his own campaign to become Brooklyn’s top prosecutor. Further, Mr. Sampson allegedly engaged in an extensive scheme to try to hide the his illegal conduct, threatening witnesses and reaching into the U.S. Attorney’s Office to try to tamper with evidence.