Saturday, December 10, 2011
9585: Seabrook Sails Off.
From The New York Times…
With Jury Deadlocked, Mistrial Is Declared in Councilman’s Corruption Case
By Benjamin Weiser and Colin Moynihan
A federal judge declared a mistrial on Friday in the corruption case of City Councilman Larry B. Seabrook, who had been charged in an elaborate scheme to direct more than $1 million in New York City taxpayer money to a network of nonprofit organizations that he controlled, purportedly for community programs.
Prosecutors had claimed that Mr. Seabrook, a Democrat from the Bronx, then used the groups to funnel more than $600,000 to family members and friends, some of whom, the government said, shared their money with him.
But the jury, which deliberated in Federal District Court in Manhattan for more than a week, told Judge Robert P. Patterson Jr. in a note late Thursday that it remained deadlocked on all 12 counts in the indictment — an impasse it first reported on Monday. At Judge Patterson’s request, the jury renewed its efforts to reach a verdict in recent days, requesting large numbers of exhibits, witness testimony and other evidence.
On Friday morning, the jurors wrote that they remained deadlocked on each count. The judge encouraged them to keep deliberating. But shortly before 3 p.m., the jurors wrote, “We remain deadlocked on all counts, and it appears we will remain deadlocked.”
The mistrial, granted at the request of the defense, came on the heels of an acquittal of State Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr., a Brooklyn Democrat, last month in the same courthouse, and could be seen as a setback for the government’s efforts to combat political corruption in New York.
Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said his office would retry Mr. Seabrook and “prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the councilman criminally exploited his official position in order to enrich his friends, his family and himself.”
Mr. Seabrook, 60, standing outside the court with his lawyers, family and other supporters, said he continued to have “faith in God and faith in the jury system.”
“I will continue to keep the faith,” he said.
The councilman made clear that he would continue to focus on representing his district, despite his legal problems. “I’ll be at the business of doing what has to be done for my constituents,” he said.
Most of the jurors declined to comment as they left the courthouse, although several remained to speak privately with prosecutors and defense lawyers. The foreman, Frank DiBrino, told reporters that “there was movement back and forth” on each of the 12 counts and that the split among the jurors was “different on different charges.”
“It wasn’t the same all the way down” the 12 charges, Mr. DiBrino said, attributing the split among jurors to “different views on the evidence.”
According to one person who was briefed on the deliberations, the jury was split 6 to 6 on the first count, which charged Mr. Seabrook with accepting thousands of dollars in illegal gratuities from a Bronx businessman whom he helped to obtain a boiler contract for the new Yankee Stadium.
On other counts, the jury was split in different ways, but typically there were groups of jurors on each side, not just single holdouts, the person who was briefed said.
For nearly three decades, Mr. Seabrook has been a fixture in Bronx politics, serving the last decade on the Council, representing communities like Co-op City, Williamsbridge and Baychester. He also served in the State Assembly and the State Senate.
During the three-week trial, his lawyers depicted Mr. Seabrook as a self-made man who had worked hard to create the kinds of jobs and diversity programs that prosecutors said he had cheated. They said Mr. Seabrook had been unaware of wrongdoing in the nonprofit organizations, and they invoked the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders who had been imprisoned, and said that they, too, had been subjected to the kinds of accusations that had been leveled at Mr. Seabrook.
The prosecutors, Brent Wible and Steve C. Lee, offered a much more tawdry picture, of an ensconced politician who used nonprofit groups as a kind of “employment program” for friends and family.
In one case, they said, he installed his girlfriend as the director of nonprofit organizations. She received more than $300,000 in payments, prosecutors said, and then kicked back “a piece of her profits” to Mr. Seabrook.
The counts against Mr. Seabrook included fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and other charges, a number of which carry prison terms of up to 20 years.
His lawyers, Anthony L. Ricco and Edward D. Wilford, did not seem surprised at the announcement that the government intended to retry the case.
“It’s certainly something that we anticipated and we look forward to the retrial of the case,” Mr. Ricco said.