Friday, May 27, 2016

Another NYPD Official "Retires" From NYC Corruption

Bill De Blasio's legacy will be:  the Most Corrupt Mayor since William Magear (“Boss”) Tweed, the “Tiger of Tammany,” 

Boss Tweed

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, Mayor De Blasio, Michael Harrington

Third High-Ranking NYPD Official Files for Retirement Amid Corruption Probe

NEW YORK CITY — A third high ranking NYPD official has filed for retirement amid the federal corruption investigation into a pay-for-favors scandal in the nation's largest police force, DNAinfo New York has learned.
Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, who was stripped of his badge and gun nearly two months ago, handed in his papers at Police Headquarters on Thursday, sources said.
The three-decade veteran, who was second in command in the NYPD’s citywide housing bureau, is the third top commander this week to leave the NYPD since Commissioner Bill Bratton said he expected arrests in the probe.
Harrington, who comes from a long line of respected officers, served previously as the right hand man for then-Chief of Department Philip Banks, who was the initial target of the now 2 1/2-year federal investigation.
Under city regulations, officers who retire are guaranteed their respective pensions even if they are arrested and convicted of a felony. Commissioner Bratton has 30 days to file charges against an officer, if warranted, that would halt their departure until the charges are resolved.
Banks, who has not been charged with any crime, took trips and junkets with two wealthy businessmen, Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, who served on Mayor de Blasio’s Inauguration Committee. 
The federal investigation of the NYPD centers on allegations that police officials took gifts in exchange for favors. The probe has also expanded to City Hall, where top mayoral advisers are being eyed over how they raised funds for various de Blasio political agendas.
Roy Richter, president of the Captain’s Endowment Association, declined to comment.
Deputy Chief David Colon, a 30-year veteran, filed for retirement on Wednesday, a day after Deputy Inspector James Grant pulled the plug on his career just shy of his 20th anniversary in the department.
Colon was known to hang out in the now-shuttered Harlem restaurant Hudson River Café, which was owned by Hamlet Peralta, a suspected con man recently arrested by the feds for operating a $12 million Ponzi scheme linked to the corruption scandal.
Deputy Inspector James Grant, who had served as the commander of the Upper East Side's 19th Precinct before his name surfaced in the scandal, is suspected of taking discounted jewelry and a trip to Las Vegas on a private jet from the two businessmen in exchange for police escorts.
Police officials said this week that they can't prevent individuals from retiring. However, they were able to reject a retirement application from Detective Michael Milici, who served as the Community Affairs officer at the 66th Precinct in Borough, because he took the Fifth when approached by the FBI — a violation of departmental policy.
Milci, who had more than 20 years on the force, was instead fired by Commissioner Bratton. But because of his tenure he is allowed to collect his full pension.
As many as another 10 officers — mostly high level officials — have been caught up in the federal probe, including two in the License Division who are suspected of taking money in exchange for gun permits without proper background checks.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sheldon Silver Gets 12 Years in Prison

Sheldon Silver, Ex-New York Assembly Speaker, Gets 12-Year Prison Sentence

Sheldon Silver, the former State Assembly speaker, arrived at court Tuesday in Lower Manhattan for his sentencing. He was convicted of corruption in November. CreditGregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

Sheldon Silver, who rose from the Lower East Side of Manhattan to become one of the state’s most powerful and feared politicians as speaker of the New York Assembly, was sentenced on Tuesday to 12 years in prison in a case that came to symbolize Albany’s culture of graft.
The conviction of Mr. Silver, 72, served as a capstone to a campaign against public corruption by Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York,which has led to more than a dozen state lawmakers’ being convicted or pleading guilty.
But none had the power, cachet or longevity that Mr. Silver, a Democrat, had enjoyed, and prosecutors sought to make an example of him. They asked that he receive a sentence greater than the terms that had been “imposed on other New York State legislators convicted of public corruption offenses.”
The longest such sentence cited by the government was 14 years, the term imposed last year in the case of another former Democratic assemblyman, William F. Boyland Jr., who was tried and convicted in federal court in Brooklyn.
Carrie H. Cohen, an assistant United States attorney, asked that Mr. Silver’s sentence “reflect the massive damage caused to the public by his crimes.”
The sentence, Ms. Cohen continued, should “send a message that this is not how business is done in Albany,” adding that “no one, including Sheldon Silver, is above the law.”
Mr. Silver briefly addressed the court before his sentence was delivered, saying he had let down his constituents, family and colleagues. “I’m truly, truly sorry for that,” he said.
The judge, Valerie E. Caproni, said at first that the many letters written on Mr. Silver’s behalf demonstrated that he went “above and beyond the call of duty many times.” But she then outlined why she thought Mr. Silver deserved a serious sentence, certainly one that went far beyond the community service his lawyers had requested.
Judge Caproni said that there had been an “incalculable harm to the people of New York,” and that the cumulative effect of public corruption “makes the public very cynical.” She then listed some of Mr. Silver’s misdeeds, and addressed him directly: “Mr. Silver, those are not the actions of an honest person.”
Mr. Silver was convicted on Nov. 30 of charges that included honest services fraud, money laundering and extortion. Upon his conviction, he forfeited his Assembly seat. Two weeks later, Dean G. Skelos, who as majority leader had been Mr. Silver’s Republican counterpart in the State Senate, was also convicted of corruption.
Mr. Skelos is to be sentenced on May 12; a week later, John L. Sampson, a former leader of the Senate Democrats, will face his own sentencing. The scrutiny continues: Several inquiries are now focused on possible wrongdoing connected to the administrations of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, both Democrats.
To date, however, Mr. Silver’s precipitous fall has no recent rival in the world of New York politics.
Mr. Silver had served for more than two decades as the Assembly speaker, imposing his will on matters large and small; he had a reputation as a staunch defender of New York City, a shrewd negotiator at budget talks and, at times, a recalcitrant opponent of anything he disliked.
But at a five-week trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan last fall, a different side of Mr. Silver emerged. Evidence showed that he had obtained nearly $4 million in illicit fees in return for taking official actions that benefited a prominent cancer researcher, Dr. Robert N. Taub, at Columbia University, and two real estate developers, Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group.
Mr. Silver had expressed regret that his conviction — and the revelations of rampant kickbacks, bribes and influence-peddling — had made the State Capitol the object of ridicule. In a letter sent last month to Judge Caproni, he offered an emotional apology, saying that he had “failed the people of New York.”
His lawyers had argued that the former speaker should be allowed to use his “unique talents” to benefit others, and that a sentence of “extensive community service and little — if any — incarceration could do that.” On Tuesday, they suggested that he could work with the Fortune Society, which helps the formerly incarcerated.
“His obituary has already been written,” about his crimes, one of his lawyers, Joel Cohen, said. “Notwithstanding everything he has done.”
But prosecutors on Tuesday questioned the authenticity of Mr. Silver’s contrition, noting that he had insisted that he would be exonerated “until the very moment of the jury’s verdict.”
Judge Caproni, citing Mr. Silver’s age, said she would not adhere to sentencing guidelines that recommended a term of roughly 22 to 27 years, saying such a sentence would be “draconian and unjust.” The court’s probation office had recommended a 10-year sentence.
The judge, however, upheld the government’s request that Mr. Silver forfeit more than $5 million in proceeds from his crimes and pay a $1.75 million fine.
Mr. Silver must surrender himself by noon on July 1; his lawyers have requested that he serve at the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, N.Y., because of its familiarity with the housing of Orthodox Jewish prisoners.
In a statement issued moments after the sentencing, Mr. Bharara said that the “stiff sentence is a just and fitting end to Sheldon Silver’s long career of corruption.”
Last month, prosecutors, in a written submission to the judge, offered what they said was additional evidence of the ways Mr. Silver had abused his office “for personal benefit,” by helping two women with whom he had conducted extramarital affairs.
One of the women had regularly lobbied Mr. Silver on behalf of clients with business before the state; he had “used his official position,” prosecutors said, to help the other woman get a state job.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Corrupt Politics May Survive Because the Corrupt Politicians Are Not Acting "Officially"

Mayor Bill has got to go. Now, soon. whatever.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Bill DeBlasio

Supreme Court making it even harder to convict corrupt politicians

Tired of New York’s pay-to-play politics?
Hoping that federal prosecutor
Preet Bharara
Preet Bharara will throw Mayor de Blasio in prison along with, soon, former state lawmakers Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos?

Keep hoping. The Supreme Court could make it harder to secure corruption convictions — meaning we’ll have to kick dirty pols out at the ballot box, rather than wait for arrests.
Federal law is clear: A politician can’t take a donor’s money and promise something in return.
Bill de Blasio can’t take money from people who want to ban the horse carriages — and promise to ban the horse carriages in return.
Nor can he take money from people who don’t want to ban helicopter tours — and then protect the tours in return.
So why might the mayor skate when it comes to any pay-for-play shenanigans?
The key is the “in return” part.
The Supreme Court has long prohibited prosecutors from using timing as evidence: Jurors must believe it is just coincidence if a candidate gets a donation one day and does something for the donor the next.
Prosecutors need evidence of an explicit deal, and few politicians are dumb enough to have such a deal.
Now, the Supreme Court could make it even harder for prosecutors to prove a quid pro quo. Under a possible new reading of the law, politicians would be able to make explicit deals with donors — as long as they don’t act “officially.”
The case in question is federal prosecutors’ conviction two years ago of then-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
McDonnell received a prison sentence for taking $177,000 in plane trips, Louis Vuitton and Oscar de la Renta clothes, iPhones, a wedding for his daughter and a Rolex, all from a man, Jonnie Williams, who wanted the governor to promote his diet pill.
The jury was careful — it acquitted the governor on three counts. But jurors could see the obvious: No politician can take that much money and not know he is being bribed.
Still, McDonnell has a great lawyer, Noel Francisco — who convinced the Supreme Court to take the case.
Last Wednesday, the court heard a novel argument: McDonnell can’t be convicted of bribery, because the things he did for Williams were not “official acts.”
That is, when McDonnell asked researchers at the state University of Virginia to promote Williams’ drug supplements, he wasn’t acting as governor. He was just acting as any regular person, exercising free speech.
As Justice Elena Kagan observed of one of the governor’s techniques, “so that’s essentially hosting a party and allowing Mr. Williams to invite some people . . . Why is that an official act?”
Sure. We all have parties in our homes.
Except: The governor has parties in the Governor’s Mansion — not something anyone can do.
And, as Justice Department lawyer Michael Dreeben noted before the court, the guests from the university weren’t exactly there voluntarily.
The governor appoints the university’s board members. “He sets the budget,” Dreeben noted. “They know that he’s an important guy . . . The governor is taking every step he can” to signal to university folk to support this diet drug.
When you’re the governor, everything you do in public is an official act.
If corruption is only when you take direct action to help a donor, it will be difficult to secure corruption convictions.
A change in the law would affect New York’s recent cases — and chances for future convictions.
Take former state Senate leader Dean Skelos, convicted of bribery in December. US Attorney Bharara’s conviction of Skelos wasn’t mostly based on “official acts,” under the definition the court is considering.
Skelos convinced Long Island officials to help a company that employed his son, in return for that employment. But Skelos had no legal authority over those Long Island officials. Anyone can ask government officials for help.
The same is true with the mayor. Say prosecutors do find evidence of a deal between horse-carriage opponents and de Blasio. Any citizen can propose that the City Council consider a bill to ban horse carriages — just as any citizen can encourage regulators to look favorably upon helicopters.
(Silver’s conviction is more secure. Then again, it took two decades to catch the guy.)
No matter what the Supreme Court rules, we shouldn’t rely on the justice system to govern our politicians.
De Blasio doesn’t have to be found legally corrupt for the voters to think he is corrupt.
As long as he’s out of office, it doesn’t matter if he’s out of prison, too.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.