Friday, September 9, 2011

Spare Mayor Bloomberg in GOP operative John Haggerty's fraud trial, prosecutors urge judge

Friday, September 9th 2011, 4:00 AM

GOP operative John Haggerty is accused of stealing $1.1 million from the mayor during Bloomberg's successful 2009 run for a third term in City Hall.
Marc A. Hermann for News
GOP operative John Haggerty is accused of stealing $1.1 million from the mayor during Bloomberg's successful 2009 run for a third term in City Hall.

Manhattan prosecutors are urging a judge to spare Mayor Bloomberg and his staff from answering some dicey campaign finance questions under oath.

Defense lawyers in the $1.1 million grand larceny trial of GOP operative John Haggerty want to ask about his claim that the mayor routinely hid campaign expenses and used his foundation to buy political support. Assistant District Attorney Eric Seidel contends the questions are "irrelevant" to the prosecution and would "confuse the jury."

Haggerty is accused of stealing $1.1 million from the mayor during Bloomberg's successful 2009 run for a third term in City Hall. The case is under close scrutiny in political circles because it raises questions about why the mayor and his inner circle used a back-door method to pay Haggerty.

Those involved included First Deputy Mayor Patti Harris, former Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey and campaign manager Bradley Tusk. The mayor and some of his aides admitted to a grand jury last year that they sent $1.2 million to the Independence Party to hire Haggerty.

His job: "ballot security," a vague term for activities that include the politically embarrassing tactic of trying to eliminate opposition votes on technicalities.

Seidel said he expects Haggerty to claim his arrangement with Bloomberg was "part of a sanctioned practice" of hiding expenditures by filtering money through third parties and using his foundation to buy support from community groups.

"Because this issue is irrelevant, collateral and would confuse the jury, the defendants should be precluded from introducing it," Seidel said in letter to Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ronald Zwiebel.

Defense lawyers have not responded yet. Zweibel is expected to make a decision next week.

Bloomberg's official campaign committee reported spending more than $109 million to get him reelected in 2009. The money sent to the Independence Party came out of his personal checking account and was not included in that official tally.

Prosecutors insist Haggerty defrauded Bloomberg because he wanted the money to buy out his brother's half of their family home in Forest Hills, Queens.

They asked the judge to block Haggerty from suggesting that if anyone was defrauded, it was the Independence Party - which took the mayor's money and then paid most of it to Haggerty.

Seidel insisted the fraud occurred the moment the money was wired - before the party spent it.

Elections lawyers said Thursday that that if the judge rules out those issues, Haggerty will have no defense and no way to challenge the credibility of key witnesses.

eeinhorn@nydailynews.com

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