Aftermath 2002 Race for Civil Court Judge

New York Law Journal
November 18, 2003, Tuesday

Norman Faces Further Counts Along With Party's Director;
Brooklyn Democratic Officials Accused of Pressuring Judge Candidates

By Daniel Wise
THE TWO top officials of the Brooklyn Democratic Party have been indicted on charges of pressuring candidates running for Civil Court judgeships to hire favored vendors and were ordered to surrender to the District Attorney's Office yesterday evening, according to sources.
Assemblyman Clarence Norman, chairman of the Brooklyn party, and Jeffrey Feldman, its executive director, are expected to be arraigned this morning, at which time the indictments will be unsealed.
Five weeks ago, Mr. Norman was indicted on charges of misusing party and campaign funds. At that time, it was widely reported that the grand jury that issued the Norman indictment did not charge Messrs. Norman and Feldman -- as had been expected -- with pressuring candidates to hire vendors.
In fact, at the time, the New York Daily News reported that the grand jury was unable to muster a majority of 12 votes in favor of an indictment with respect to the hiring charge. With the reported vote 10-2 in favor of an indictment, the grand jury was apparently unable to come to a definitive decision either in favor of or against an indictment. Under those circumstances, experts said, there was no legal impediment to the prosecution's re-submission of the issue to the grand jury.
After a hiatus of slightly more than five weeks, the grand jury has voted the indictment that was initially expected on Oct. 9, according to sources. Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office declined comment.
The hiring charge, sources say, stems from a boroughwide Civil Court campaign in 2002 in which two insurgent candidates, Civil Court Judge Margarita Lopez Torres and Housing Court -- now Civil Court -- Judge Delores J. Thomas, defeated two party-backed candidates, incumbent Judge Karen B. Yellen and Housing Court Judge Marcia Sikowitz.
The charges reportedly accuse Mr. Norman and Mr. Feldman of threatening to withhold support from Judges Yellen and Sikowitz unless they hired William Boone III, a former leader in Mr. Norman's political club, to run a get-out-the-vote campaign, and Branford Communications to handle campaign mailings.
According to filings with the city Board of Elections, Judge Yellen's campaign paid $9,000 to Mr. Boone and $7,686 to the Branford firm.
Similarly, the filings of Judge Sikowitz's campaign reported $12,836 to Branford, but no payments to Mr. Boone, who holds an administrative post at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.
One source noted that Mr. Boone was hired to get out the vote in minority neighborhoods, where Judge Yellen, who is Jewish, would presumably not have fared as well as her opponents, Judge Thomas, who is black, and Judge Lopez Torres, who is Hispanic. In addition, the source noted, Judge Yellen had already retained as her campaign consultant the Advance Group, which handles campaign mailings among other services.
Robert Liff, a spokesman for Messrs. Norman and Feldman, denied that either official had pressured anyone. Mr. Liff asserted the facts belied any assertion that Judge Yellen had been pressured to retain Mr. Boone on pain of losing critical party aid. Judge Yellen did not pay Mr. Boone until the day after she lost the primary, he said.
Mr. Liff also disputed that Branford was a vendor favored by party leaders. Ernest Lendler, the principal of Advance, has been hired both by party-backed candidates and insurgents, he said.
Richard Guay, Mr. Lendler's lawyer, said his client had no knowledge of either judge being pressured to hire him, and he would not have accepted the assignment if he had known.
In addition, Mr. Guay, of Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, said that Mr. Lendler had "fully cooperated with the investigation since its inception."
A source close to Mr. Boone said he had done "nothing inappropriate or pressured Ms. Yellen in any way."

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?