Saturday, December 7, 2013

Judge slaps down allegedly corrupt pol’s ‘unfair’ cry

A Manhattan federal judge on Friday sided with US Attorney Preet Bharara, rejecting indicted Assemblyman Eric Stevenson’s claim that he can’t get a “fair trial” because the lawman publicly singled him out and said the pol shouldn’t get a government pension if he’s convicted on bribery charges.
Judge William Pauley III rejected a change-of-venue motion by Stevenson (D-Bronx) to move his January public-corruption trial outside the Southern District of New York, which includes Manhattan, The Bronx and Westchester.
Despite his indictment, which attracted wide media coverage, Stevenson had claimed Bharara is trying the case “in the court of public opinion,” referring to bombshell testimony the prosecutor gave in September to Gov. Cuomo’s Commission to Investigate Public Corruption.
Bharara revealed to the panel that he’s moving forward with plans to seize the future pensions for Stevenson and state Sen. Malcolm Smith — if they’re convicted of corruption charges. Smith is also awaiting trial in a separate case.
Stevenson had claimed Bharara’s remarks, which were prominently reported by many media outlets, would prevent him from getting an impartial jury.
But Pauley shot down the claim, saying, “any prejudice . . . by these limited remarks and prospective news articles could be dealt with by carefully questioning prospective jurors.”
When asked afterward if he believes he can get a fair trial, a somber Stevenson said he’d discuss plea-deal options with his lawyer but plans to go to trial on Jan. 6 because he’s “innocent.”
“I’m not 100 percent pleased with what took place today, so we’ll see where we go from here,” Stevenson said. “I will continue to pray for justice.”
Stevenson is accused of accepting more than $20,000 in bribes as part of an alleged scheme to help four co-defendants open Bronx adult day-care centers and pass legislation to protect them from competition.

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