Assemblyman William Scarborough arrested


Assemblymember William Scarborough (D-Queens).   Source  :  Official Photo/NYS Assembly

Assemblymember William Scarborough (D-Queens).  Source :  Official Photo/NYS Assembly

New York State Assemblymember William Scarborough (D-Queens) was arrested today, the Associated Press is reporting.

A staff member for Assemblymember Scarborough said that the Albany office was not making any statements to the press at this time.

Last March, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Assemblymember Scarborough's Albany and Queens offices in connection with a probe about possible misuse of a travel expense account, according to the Web site Politics on the Hudson.

According to a press advisory, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli are expected to hold a press briefing to "announce a development in a public corruption case" today at 2 p.m. at the Attorney General's downtown Manhattan office at 120 Broadway.

Assemblymember Scarborough's arrest follows a long string of cases of ethics violations, corruption cases, and resignations by politicians from Albany to New York City.  New York State Senator Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) was voted out of office in the Democratic Party's September primary election after he was arrested on charges of trying to bribe his way to win the Republican Party's mayoral nomination, New York City Councilmember Daniel Halloran (D-Queens) did not run for reelection after he was arrested in connection with trying to aid Senator Smith with his election plot, and New York City Councilmember Ruben Wills (D-Queens) was arrested on charges of misusing public funds, amongst many other politicians, who currently face or have faced ethics or corruption charges.  Former Councilmember Halloran was later convicted by a federal jury for his part in the bribery scheme.  

Another legislator, State Senator Jose Peralta (D-Queens), received over $500,000 in taxpayer money for a nonprofit organization that he helped to organize when he was an Assemblymember.  That nonprofit, the Corona-Elmhurst Center for Economic Development, never filed federal tax returns, had no employees, and appeared to be inactive, according to a 2009 exposé in The New York Daily News.  No charges of ethics violations or corruption have ever been filed against State Senator Peralta ; however, his troubles resurfaced after another former legislator, State Senator Shirley Huntley (D-Queens), began cooperating with federal authorities as part of a larger sting operation to combat corruption in the state capital.  State Senator Peralta paid the law firm Strook Strook & Lavan $36,000 in his own campaign finance funds to represent him before the U.S. Attorney's Office as part of the many federal investigations spinning off from a minor corruption case against former State Senator Huntley.

Other Queens elected officials, who have faced criminal charges, include State Senator Ada Smith (D-Queens), who was found guilty in 2006 by a City Court in Albany of having thrown coffee in the face of one of her aides ; Assemblymember Anthony Seminerio (D-Queens), who died in prison in 2011 after having pleaded guilty in 2009 to federal charges of trading political favors for estimated payments of $500,000 ; Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens), who was expelled in 2010 from the State Senate after a 2009 misdemeanor assault conviction and who later pleaded guilty to federal charges, including mail fraud, for having used City Council slush funds to finance his first unsuccessful campaign for the State Senate ; and former Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin (D-Queens), who pleaded guilty in 2008 to federal racketeering charges.

Political and campaign corruption have become hot-button issues in this year's state wide election season.  When Gov. Andrew Cuomo campaigned for the governorship four years ago, he pledged to clean up corruption in Albany, a commitment that came to be viewed as a broken campaign promise after Gov. Cuomo became embroiled in a political corruption scandal of his own, when it was reported that his office allegedly obstructed the corruption fighting work of the Moreland Commission.  The role of the governor's office in undermining the Moreland Commission has become the subject of its own federal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's southern district.  Indictments have yet to be handed down in connection with the probe of Gov. Cuomo's office.

In a rare move, the investigation against Assemblymember Scarborough was co-led by the state's attorney general.  Attorney General Schneiderman has exhibited very little appetite to prosecute political and campaign corruption, as have the state's various local district attorneys. Of all the above cited cases involving state elected officials, it is believed that the attorney general has only been involved in the case against Assemblymember Scarborough.  Queens District Attorney Richard Brown has been absent from prosecuting any of the corruption cases against the long string of various Queens politicians facing ethics or corruption charges, leading voters and government reform activists to question the attorney general's and local district attorneys' commitments to fighting political and campaign corruption.  However, Queens D.A. Brown did secure the assault conviction against former Senator Monserrate.

Updated 02 October 2014 to include other cases of corruption by Queens officials.