Monday, June 10, 2013

Former state Sen. Shirley Huntley has no regrets about secretly recording her colleagues for the feds: 'I could care less what the politicians think about me'

The disgraced politician, who stole $88,000 from a nonprofit she oversaw, said she agreed to become an informant to protect her family from being prosecuted along with her.

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Former state Sen. Shirley Huntley said, "Albany is a mess." "It’s all about money and power," she continued. "I don’t think most of them give a tinker’s damn about their constituents.”

Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News

Former state Sen. Shirley Huntley said, "Albany is a mess." "It’s all about money and power," she continued. "I don’t think most of them give a tinker’s damn about their constituents.”

Ex-state Sen. Shirley Huntley has no regrets about turning the family room of her Queens home into a sound stage for the feds to secretly record elected officials and document Albany’s “mess.”
Huntley said she agreed to become an informant — spying on pols using James Bond-like gadgets like a video camera hidden in a water bottle — to protect her family from being prosecuted along with her. And to those who condemn her betrayal, she offers a middle finger.
“I could care less what the politicians think about me,” Huntley, 74, told the Daily News in an exclusive interview. “They know what I say is true because they live it every day. Albany is a mess. It’s all about money and power. I don’t think most of them give a tinker’s damn about their constituents.”
Huntley is scheduled to surrender July 19 at a still-undetermined federal prison camp to serve one year and one day for stealing $88,000 from a nonprofit group she controlled. She agreed to the interview so she could set the record straight about when she was cooperating with the government last summer.
“I sleep very well. I can survive it (prison),” Huntley said. “The only thing I’ll be missing is my brandy and my cigarettes.”
The disgraced politician's keychain and cigarette case contained stealth listening devices.

Steve Outram/Getty Images

The disgraced politician's keychain and cigarette case contained stealth listening devices.

Huntley never got a cooperation deal from the feds — prosecutors said her recordings of seven politicians provided little actual evidence and that she was not completely truthful in other sessions with the government. Some allegations could be corroborated and others could not, said Assistant Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Paul Tuchman.
Huntley, who served six years in the Senate, said she did not have deep, personal relationships with the six state senators, one city councilman and two political aides she taped.
Nothing personal, she said. It was only business.
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The FBI agents who showed up at Huntley’s home one morning in May 2012 were also all business. Huntley was told her phone had been tapped and there was evidence that could send her to prison — including a tape, if she wanted to hear it.
Huntley also used a bottle of Aquafina water that contained a camera to catch the crooked politicians.

Paul Taggart

Huntley also used a bottle of Aquafina water that contained a camera to catch the crooked politicians.

Huntley already knew she was under investigation by the state, and she said state Sen. John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) had warned her earlier to get rid of her phone because the feds were “on my wire.”
Soon, she was singing to prosecutors in a sleek, downtown office of the U.S. Secret Service.
There were threats that Huntley’s daughter and husband might be implicated in the embezzling of funds at the nonprofit Parents Information Network.
“If I didn’t do it (cooperate), they were going after my family,” Huntley said. “How do you give up your blood family?”
Since Huntley was laid up with a broken ankle at the time, a plan was hatched to lure the targets to her home, or at least those who would not become suspicious by an invite. For example, Huntley said the feds “mentioned” Rep. Gregory Meeks, but she replied that he only “meets in parks” and wouldn’t likely come to her home.
Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Queens) was among those featured in more than 24 recordings. Sources said there were problems with Huntley pressing the key chain clicker device twice, which turned it off, forgetting to ask certain questions, or facing the camera the wrong way, which aroused suspicion she was being less than cooperative.

Farriella, Christie M, Freelanc

Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Queens) was among those featured in more than 24 recordings. Sources said there were problems with Huntley pressing the key chain clicker device twice, which turned it off, forgetting to ask certain questions, or facing the camera the wrong way, which aroused suspicion she was being less than cooperative.

But the pols who did show up didn’t know Huntley had been given listening devices in her key chain and cigarette case. And they didn’t know that the omnipresent bottle of Aquafina water on the bar contained a hidden camera to videotape her unsuspecting colleagues.
Huntley was given talking points by the agents who sat in a car down the block listening to the conversations in real time.
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Sometimes special agent Ken Hosey would send Huntley a text message such as “Ask about Aqueduct,” referring to the ongoing probe of bid-rigging of the racetrack casino contract.
Sampson was taped 10 or more times, according to Huntley, and state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) about four. She got Sampson talking about a bribery scheme they were involved in together involving a Kennedy Airport contractor. But she couldn’t get Sampson to open up about real estate scams for which he was indicted last month.
State Sen Eric Adams was another of the officials recorded.

For New York Daily News

State Sen Eric Adams was another of the officials recorded.

“John might have his issues, but he’s not stupid when it comes to his personal stuff,” she said.
Huntley said the feds suggested she whine to Smith that she was broke, and he offered her a no-show job. “I didn’t feel bad about Malcolm, he did stuff to me,” she said, claiming Smith had sicced the state controller on her nonprofit.
There was chaos when state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn) showed up earlier than planned before the FBI had a chance to set up the camera. Herb Huntley dashed outside to grab the Aquafina bottle and place it on the bar. Huntley said she served the guests water so they wouldn’t reach for the Aquafina, which was unusually heavy due to the camera concealed in a false bottom.
Claiming she could deliver Albany colleagues who “cash up,” Huntley largely came up short. “In Albany, ‘cash up’ means somebody’s going to give you cash. Even the elevator boy knows that,” Huntley said.
She believes state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Queens) knew he was being taped because he repeatedly stated that he did not take money in a tone that sounded “like he was reciting it,” Huntley said.
Huntley, 74, says she can handle prison. “I sleep very well. I can survive it (prison),” she said. “The only thing I’ll be missing is my brandy and my cigarettes.”

Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News

Huntley, 74, says she can handle prison. “I sleep very well. I can survive it (prison),” she said. “The only thing I’ll be missing is my brandy and my cigarettes.”

More than two dozen tapings included Sens. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn), Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx) and Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Queens), Smith’s former spokesman Curtis Taylor and Melvin Lowe, a political consultant in the past to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
RELATED: MALCOLM SMITH AND CODEFENDANTS PLEAD NOT GUILTY
She frequently asked the guests for “dirt” about Schneiderman but got none.
Meanwhile, her dealings with the feds were getting frayed. Sources said there were problems with Huntley pressing the key chain clicker device twice, which turned it off, forgetting to ask certain questions, or facing the camera the wrong way, which aroused suspicion she was being less than cooperative.
Huntley admitted using some of the illicit money for personal shopping and paying a catering bill, but she has also claimed that she paid for the cremations of two destitute children and to purchase a boiler for an elderly constituent. A prosecutor shot back with the line, “Stop with the Robin Hood,” she recalled.
The feds did give her credit for helping to nail Sampson, who, she said, called her a week before he was arrested to ask whether he should plead guilty. “He said he was okay and reading the Bible,” Huntley said. “I told him he had to do what is best for his family.”
Smith, too, was arrested on corruption charges unrelated to Huntley’s probe.
“Her lack of remorse is very revealing and the agents’ invented effort to try to set up Sen. Smith speaks volumes about the character of the investigation,” said Smith’s lawyer, Gerald Shargel. “Her unabashed hatred and bias toward Malcolm is revealing as well.”
Huntley is indeed unabashed.
“If John and Malcolm would talk, oh my God,” she said provocatively. “They flip him (Sampson) and you’ll need a special election to elect a whole new damn Senate.”
jmarzulli@nydailynews.com
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