In the words of one political operative, “It’s Groundhog Day in Albany,” as another leader of the state senate is indicted on charges of corruption. The head of the ethics committee, Senator John Sampson is the fourth member of the legislature to be indicted in as many weeks. In a nine count indictment by the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District, Sampson is accused of embezzling more than $400,000 in a scheme involving foreclosure sales in which he served as an attorney. U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said Sampson used the stolen money to help finance his failed bid for District Attorney in Brooklyn eight years ago.
The 47-year-old Sampson was also charged with evidence tampering for having a mole in the U.S. Attorneys office feed him information about the criminal probe against him. The one-time Democratic leader has retained former U.S. Attorney Zachary Carter as his attorney. Carter declared the charges against his client are not corruption. He said Sampson did not use his public position in the matters cited in the complaint. Recognizing the seriousness of the accusations, Carter said they involve non-political matters in which Sampson did not use his political position for any benefit.
Lynn said it was said to see a pattern of corruption in Albany that reflects badly on the state and on the honest politicians who serve their constituents.
The charges, arrests or convictions of so 32 elected officials over the past seven years has tarnished the image of the state legislature which Governor Cuomo has vowed to clean up. Just weeks ago another senate leader was indicted. Senator Malcolm Smith is accused of bribery in connection with a scheme to game himself a line in the upcoming Mayoral race. The next day, agents arrested Assemblyman Eric
Stevenson for bribery. He was indicted thanks to secrt recordings made by another Assemblyman in trouble—Nelson Castro who resigned.
Senator Shirley Huntley, accused of pocketing $87,000, in an effort to save her own neck, wore a wire to help the feds snag two other politicians. She’s due to be sentenced this week.
Senator Sampson’s arrest comes almost a year after state Senator Carl Kruger was sentenced to seven years for bribery. And a year ago this week, Senator Hiram Monserratt plead guilty to misusing funds, two years after he was found guilty of assaulting his girlfriend.
And just a year ago, Senator Pedro Espada was found guilty of embezzlement.
Governor Cuomo said the indictment of Senator Sampson heightens the urgency for reform in Albany.
However, sources have told me, that more heads are likely to fall before any reform measures are passed. The corruption probe is ongoing and quite active. My sources said authorities are now taking closer looks at at least one member of the Assembly, another member of the Senate and at least one member of the City Council.
Despite the serious charges, it has to be remembered that all the suspects are presumed innocent until proven otherwise.