Pedro Espada becomes latest NY pol convicted for abusing power
Add Pedro Espada Jr. to the ever-growing list of crooked New York politicians.
The former state Senator was found guilty Monday of stealing more than $600,000 from Soundview Health Center, a nonprofit health clinic he founded. Prosecutors said Espada, 58, blew the money on vacations, gifts, parties and home improvements for himself and friends.
But after 11 days of deliberations in Brooklyn federal clourt, a mistrial was declared on charges Espeda conspired with his son to defraud the Bronx clinic and the IRS, and on charges against his son, Pedro Gautier Espada.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who originally filed the complaint against Espada when he was attorney general, called Espada Monday “the prime example of government corruption.”
“Those who would abuse the public trust have a pointed lesson in the downfall of former Senator Espada. ... We will have no tolerance for government corruption,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Espada’s downfall puts him in the company of other recently disgraced, big-name pols. Former Comptroller Alan Hevesi is currently in jail for corruption; former Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin is in jail on racketeering charges; and former state senator Carl Kruger received a seven-year prison sentence last month for taking millions from lobbyists.
Hunter College political science professor Jamie Chandler said city politicians have a long history of brushes with the law.
“You can go all the way back to Tammany Hall and find corruption and graft. It’s common for New York City politics,” Chandler said. “As people serve longer, they believe they’re invincible and less likely to be caught.”
Espada opened himself to scrutiny in 2009, Chandler said, when he switched to the Republican party, briefly shifting control of the chamber to the Republicans and irritating powerful New York Democrats. Espada later returned to the Democrats in exchange for the post of majority leader.
“He angered a number of prominent Democrats and that made him prone for people to look into his record and go after him,” Chandler said, adding that Espada likely would have gotten busted for stealing from the health clinic eventually regardless of his skirmishes with his peers.
Espada’s defense argued that all of his spending practices and financial arrangements were known and approved by Soundview's board, and that he had been targeted by prosecutors for practices and perks that are common on Wall Street because of his political disputes in Albany.
Though Espada still controls Soundview, the clinic has stopped seeing patients in the wake of a clampdown on reimbursements from the state.
Espeda still faces a possible retrial on the charges the jury did not resolve, and separate tax charges in federal court in Manhattan.
(With Newsday and Ivan Pereira)
State senator Pedro Espada is the latest to join the ranks of city politicians who were punished for abusing their power.
The former Queens city councilman and state senator pleaded guilty two weeks ago to federal conspiracy and mail fraud charges. Sentencing is scheduled for September.
The former Brooklyn state senator pleaded guilty in December to federal bribery and wire fraud charges for pocketing millions of dollars from lobbyists. He was sentenced last month to seven years in prison.
The former city and state comptroller pleaded guilty to corruption charges and was sentenced to 1 to 4 years in prison last year. He was banned from holding office in 2007 after admitting he abused his power.
The former Queens state assemblyman is serving a 10-year prison stint after he pleaded guilty in 2008 to racketeering charges.
The former Queens state assemblyman died in prison last year while serving a six-year sentence for fraud charges. He was caught admitting his crimes in wiretapped conversations with McLaughlin.
The Queens councilman resigned in 2008 as part of a plea deal for misdemeanor sex abuse charges. The married elected official admitted that he had unconsentual sex with a woman in his campaign office in 2007 and did not get jail time.