New York's Tough Stance on Political Corruption
2018 was an unseasonably busy year for political corruption in New York, with many cases touching the heart of Governor Cuomo’s inner sanctum. With the eruption of political malfeasance across the Empire State, we wanted to take the opportunity to remind everyone of New York’s toughness when comes to bribes, sex scandals and other forms of tomfoolery in the political realm.
Those who are accused of political corruption are innocent until proven guilty.Political Corruption Laws
Rarely will political figures face one charge of corruption; investigators prefer to find several charges so at least one can stick. A few of New York’s more popular charges include:
- Misappropriation of government funds;
- Accepting bribes in exchange for political influence;
- Corrupt business influence;
- Misuse of campaign finances;
- Receiving kickbacks in exchange for the passage of laws designed to help certain businesses or entrepreneurs; and
Articles 496.02 - 496.05 of New York’s Penal Code addresses corrupting the government. Charges range from Class E to Class B felonies, with sentences up to 25 years per count possible.
Official misconduct could accompany any charge above. In many corruption scandals, the mere presence of criminal activity could force political figures out of office.Defenses to Political Corruption Charges
Under the tutelage of an attorney, defendants can mount a strong defense against political corruption charges. Some areas you could expect an attorney to concentrate on include:
- Discovery. An attorney will motion the court to compel prosecution to produce the evidence used to determine charges were warranted. This could include conversations, financial records, written statements by witnesses, phone calls, and internet histories. If the discovery is wrong, or is missing information to validate the underlying indictment, the charges could get dismissed.
- Tainted witnesses. The strongest part of the prosecution’s case rests on the laurels of witnesses. If promises of payment in exchange for “stretching the truth” were made, or if the witnesses were tainted in any way, the case against the defendant could get tossed.
- Wrong defendant. It’s entirely possible detectives got it wrong, and the political figure charged with corruption actually couldn’t have committed the crime. Complicity requires the politician encouraging their underlings to perform wrongdoing; this could be disproven by the politician testifying to their lack of knowledge of the underlying crime.
- Entrapment. Detectives may use illegal methods to secure their arrest, such as coercing you to commit a crime. This tactic is highly illegal, and often comes at a steep price for police departments.
Public officials would benefit from criminal defense not only to protect their careers, but to keep them out of jail.Cases of Political Corruption in NY
New York has been mired in political scandal for several years, with these cases being the most notable in recent history:
- Pamela Harris, D-Brooklyn. Accused of pocketing $25,000 in FEMA funds and $23,000 in NYC money, Harris was sentenced to six months in jail. She admitted to scamming the government by portraying herself as a superstorm Sandy victim.
- Sheldon Silver, Manhattan Democrat. Using his well-known power as the State Assembly speaker, Silver was able to divert $4 million disguised as legal payments to a Columbia University contact who sent him clients. Although his first conviction was overturned, he was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison after his retrial.
- Alain Kaloyeros, SUNY Polytechnic founder. Cuomo trusted Kaloyeros to oversee major economic development projects such as the Buffalo Billion; unfortunately, Alain was charged with bid rigging after $850 million went to two contractors who offered him kickbacks. He was sentenced to over 3 years in prison for his role.
Many other cases have been tried, although sentences were either nondescript, or the cases were dismissed altogether. Politifact reported several years back that New York leads the nation in political duplicity, a record they still boast today.What to Do if Accused of Political Corruption
Charges of using one’s position of power and prestige for their own personal gain are serious. However, not always will investigations turn up facts as they should. If you feel an opponent is trying to oust you by spreading false allegations, or you’re being investigated for corrupt influence, always:
- Remain as silent as the law allows. This means disallowing law enforcement to coerce you into incriminating yourself, or avoiding questioning altogether until an attorney is present.
- Avoid destroying records. The easiest way to look guilty is to begin destroying thousands of documents associated with your political office or other initiatives you’ve undertaken. If you’re genuinely innocent, the documents will set you free.
- Instruct your constituents to hire counsel. You’re not the only target of an investigation; once they’ve found enough dirt on you, detectives will work their way up the food chain. Instruct everyone to hire counsel and say nothing until they’re present.
- Avoid any sudden actions. Cleaning out bank accounts, selling vacation homes, firing your entire staff and absconding in the middle of the night will make an innocent person look guilty. Let your attorney sort out which finances are your families, and which may be subject to the underlying charges.
White Plains politicians should phone our office immediately if an investigation is active.Bad Politics Differ from Bad Political Decisions
Making poor political choices, such as accepting kickbacks or misusing funds, could land politicians in jail for decades if the fraud is massive. But let’s not confuse crappy politicians with crappy choices; according to law, only the latter is criminally litigable if enough evidence exists.
If you’re under investigation, have been indicted or believe an investigation could be forthcoming, it’s imperative to hire credible political corruption defense attorneys with knowledge of New York’s complex criminal justice system.Hire an Experienced Political Corruption Attorney
To defend allegations of criminal corruption in New York, you need an attorney that is committed to client excellence and knows how to defend the constitutional rights of the accused. Exemplifying these traits, and many others, is Tilem & Associates, PC. The firm has, time and time again, represented clients in high-stakes criminal cases with an unwavering commitment to defending the accused who have been charged with serious crimes.