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New York swamp

The convictions and reconvictions of New York politicos are symptoms of a putrid political body

New York swamp

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver speaks to reporters outside federal court in New York on May 11. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

A New York moment: 

Good luck keeping up with all the corruption trials going on here in the Empire State. Since the U.S. Supreme Court let off Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2016, setting a higher legal standard for corruption cases, federal judges here have tossed out corruption convictions of two top New York politicians. 

This spring and summer federal prosecutors have been back in court, trying to win convictions again in those cases. William J. Harrington, a former federal prosecutor, told The New York Times that re-trying a corruption case is “like putting on a wet bathing suit.”

Manhattan federal court hosted two of those major cases, featuring former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (a Democrat) and former New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (a Republican). 

In May, prosecutors won their case against Silver again, and he faces 12 years in prison. On Tuesday, prosecutors scored another victory, with a jury convicting Skelos of all eight counts of corruption.

Silver and Skelos occupied two of the highest offices in state government—only Gov. Andrew Cuomo sat higher, and that’s where more corruption cases come in. Two men with close ties to Cuomo have recently been convicted of corruption. In March, his top aide, Joe Percoco, was convicted of soliciting and accepting bribes. Then, last week, the leader of Cuomo’s economic initiative, Alain Kaloyeros, was convicted of rigging millions of dollars of government-funded bids. 

You’d like to think that prosecutors are cleaning house, but the structure of the New York political machine seems resistant to reform. A top aide to Silver was recently sworn in to the New York Senate.

Worth your time:  

Data wizard Brad Heath compiled and analyzed 5.1 million police dispatches from Baltimore in the years since Freddie Gray’s death—years where Baltimore’s homicide rate became the highest in America. Heath found that while police responded to calls for help, police-initiated investigations, interviews, and interactions plummeted.

This is what people in the community have also told me—that police had pulled back. “[They] are … fearful that if they step over the line, we’ll get the riots again,” local pastor Rodney Hudson said last year. “So what’s happening now is because there’s a more relaxed approach to policing.” 

Morale at the police department must be extremely low, too, with the massive police corruption case that resulted in the conviction of eight officers this year and the recent resignation of the department’s new police chief following tax evasion charges. All in all, one Baltimore politician’s proposal to disband the department and start it from scratch—like Camden, N.J., did—doesn’t seem so crazy.

This week I learned: 

French authorities have decided to encase the Eiffel Tower’s base in bulletproof glass and a metal fence to protect tourists from terror attacks. Perhaps that is a necessary measure, but the design seems to take away from the park-like layout under the tower. New York City has many open public areas protected with unobtrusive bollards (and slightly more obtrusive counterterrorism officers).

Culture I am consuming: 

The Office, Season 4, Episode 1. Boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell) has just run over one of his employees, Meredith, with his company car, fracturing her pelvis. He has a phone call about it with Ryan in the corporate office: 

Ryan: “Did this happen on company property?”
Michael: “It was on company property, with company property. So, double jeopardy, we’re fine.”
Ryan: “I don’t think—I don’t think you understand how jeopardy works.”
Michael: “Oh, I’m sorry. What is, ‘we’re fine’?”

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at ebelz@wng.org 

Comments

  • JerryM
    Posted: Thu, 07/19/2018 06:25 pm

    Add Eric Schneiderman to the mix.  Why is the MSM not addressing NYS political affairs more pointedly?  All evidence points to a systemic issue.