Sunday, July 26, 2009

Former state judge Thomas J. Spargo of Albany County is set for a federal criminal trial on Aug. 24 after a jurist upheld attempted bribery and extortion charges against him.

Judge upholds Spargo charges
Federal jurist refuses to dismiss attempted
bribery, extortion case; will two lawyers testify?

By BRENDAN J. LYONS, Senior writer, Times Union
First published: Sunday, July 26, 2009

ALBANY -- A judge has upheld the federal criminal charges against former state Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Spargo, who was indicted in December on charges of attempted bribery and attempted extortion.

U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe ruled from the bench in a pre-trial hearing last week that the indictment was sufficient and the case will move forward to trial.

The criminal case is built on allegations that Spargo, now in private practice, had in 2003 attempted to extort $10,000 for his legal defense fund from attorneys, including Bruce Blatchly, an Ulster County lawyer who had about 12 cases pending before Spargo. The fund was set up to defray Spargo's $140,000 legal bills from a years-long battle with the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Spargo, 65, an East Berne attorney, has pleaded not guilty. He is represented by Troy attorney E. Stewart Jones.

The state judicial conduct panel concluded three years ago Spargo attempted to extort money from Blatchly. The panel ruled Spargo be removed from the bench and the Court of Appeals later affirmed the decision.

During last week's pre-trial hearing attorneys for the government and defense addressed whether two attorneys close to Spargo, Sanford Rosenblum and Catherine Doyle, an Albany Surrogate's Court judge, will testify at Spargo's trial.

Rosenblum has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to cooperate with prosecutors. He did not testify before a grand jury. Spargo's attorneys want Rosenblum to receive immunity from prosecution so that he will testify at trial. He has information that could be ''exculpatory'' to Spargo in the case, they said.

Doyle obtained an attorney after being confronted by FBI agents during the investigation of Spargo and later testified in front of the grand jury that indicted him. She did not invoke a Fifth Amendment right.

Federal prosecutors said Doyle was not a target of their investigation but that they considered her a ''co-conspirator.'' Her role as a witness at a 2003 luncheon where several attorneys were allegedly solicited for Spargo's legal defense fund is at the heart of their interest in Doyle, said M. Kendall Day, a trial attorney with the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section in Washington, D.C.

''Both she and Mr. Rosenblum tell a version of events that is inconsistent with the other evidence,'' Day told the judge. ''What else is she doing at this lunch where they're coming to talk about raising money ...''

Prosecutors believe Doyle's involvement centered on the allegation an attorney solicited for a donation had a case pending before her, according to court records.

Spargo's trial is tentatively set to begin Aug. 24 in U.S. District Court in Albany.

Former New York State Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Spargo Indicted for Attempted Extortion and Bribery
Dec 10th, 2008, Staff.

A former Supreme Court Justice of the Third Judicial Circuit of the State of New York was charged today with attempted extortion and federal program bribery, Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich of the Criminal Division announced. Thomas J. Spargo, 65 was charged in an indictment returned today by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of New York.

According to the indictment, while Spargo was a state Supreme Court Justice in 2003, he allegedly solicited $10,000 from an Ulster County, N.Y., attorney who had cases pending before the judge. The indictment further charges that Spargo solicited the money by causing the attorney to fear that Spargo would use his official acts and influence to harm the attorney if he was not paid and, conversely, to help the attorney if he was paid.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Richard C. Pilger and Trial Attorney M. Kendall Day of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, headed by William M. Welch II, Chief. The case was investigated by the FBI – Albany Division.

An indictment is merely a charge, and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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