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Crime Mount Vernon corruption trial gets underway today

16:45  05 december  2019
16:45  05 december  2019 Source:   lohud.com

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Opening statements are this morning in the corruption trial of Lawrence Porcari, the former Mount Vernon corporation counsel accused of steering $365,000 in city water funds to criminal defense lawyers and publicists who were representing then-Mayor Richard Thomas.

a man in a suit standing in front of a building: Mount Vernon Corporation Counsel Lawrence Porcari leaves Westchester County Court June 5, 2019, following a conference in his criminal case. Porcari is accused of steering $365,000 in city water department funds to pay for criminal defense and public relations work for Mayor Richard Thomas. At center is Florida lawyer Michael Pizzi, who wants to represent Porcari even though he already represents Thomas and received some of the water department funds.© Provided by Gannett Co., Inc. Mount Vernon Corporation Counsel Lawrence Porcari leaves Westchester County Court June 5, 2019, following a conference in his criminal case. Porcari is accused of steering $365,000 in city water department funds to pay for criminal defense and public relations work for Mayor Richard Thomas. At center is Florida lawyer Michael Pizzi, who wants to represent Porcari even though he already represents Thomas and received some of the water department funds.

The trial before Westchester County Judge David Zuckerman is expected to last up to two weeks.

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Prosecutors from the state Attorney General’s Office, who failed to indict Thomas himself in the case, will try to convince jurors that Porcari operated a fraudulent scheme.

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Although Porcari is charged with second-degree grand larceny, defense lawyer Stephen Lewis will highlight that his client never personally profited from any of the water funds. The other charges are first-degree corrupting government; defrauding the government; and four counts of first-degree offering a false statement for filing, related to Porcari’s letters to the water department each time he sought a specific payment for the lawyers. The Board of Water Supply, while a city agency, operates financially outside the control of the city finance department.

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But the defense will counter that using water department funds for city business has long been common. Lewis contends that Porcari believed he was acting appropriately, that the mayor was entitled to be represented by the city in his criminal case and that dysfunction in City Hall made it impossible for him to get the money from the city budget.

The lawyers who received the water funds were representing Thomas on criminal charges that he had stolen campaign funds from his political committee and failed to report on his city ethics forms the receipt of tens of thousands of dollars from his inaugural committee and other sources.

Richard Thomas wearing a suit and tie: Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas, left and corporation counsel Lawrence Porcari answer questions about the progress of the demolition of Memorial Field and the tennis center during a press conference on Friday, June 1, 2018.© John Meore/The Journal News Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas, left and corporation counsel Lawrence Porcari answer questions about the progress of the demolition of Memorial Field and the tennis center during a press conference on Friday, June 1, 2018.

More than half the money for the lawyers' and publicist's fees, $225,000, went to two Florida lawyers, Benedict Kuehne and Michael Pizzi. Another $136,000 went to the law firm of Boies Schiller Flexner and the remainder went to the PR firm, Todd Shapiro & Associates, which represented the mayor for about two months starting with his arrest in March 2018.

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In July, Thomas pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors related to the campaign funds. He agreed to step down from office in late September – but the City Council argued he had vacated the office as a result of the plea. For weeks, Thomas fought the move and vied with the city council president, Andre Wallace, over who was mayor before a judge ruled it was Wallace.

Wallace ousted Porcari as corporation counsel, citing his criminal case.

JUDGE: Porcari can’t use Thomas lawyers

NO DEAL: Porcari rejects plea offer

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Mount Vernon corruption trial gets underway today

Elon Musk not liable in 'pedo guy' defamation trial .
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