New York State Senator John Sampson Convicted of Obstruction of Justice and False Statements

Earlier today, following four weeks of trial, a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, returned guilty verdicts against New York State Senator John Sampson, for one count of obstruction of justice and two counts of making false statements to federal agents. Since 1997, Sampson has served in the New York State Senate representing the 19th Senate District in southeastern Brooklyn. From June 2009 to December 2012, Sampson was the leader of the Democratic Conference of the Senate, and from January 2011 to December 2012, he was also the Senate Minority Leader. Sampson has also served as the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. When sentenced by United States District Judge Dora L. Irizarry, Sampson faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The verdict was announced by Kelly T. Currie, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.

“Today’s verdict stands as a vindication of the efforts of this office and the FBI to aggressively root out corruption undertaken by a public official in New York,” stated Acting United States Attorney Currie. “Sampson, a lawyer, New York State Senator, Senate leader, and one time chair of the Senate Ethics Committee, abused his power and violated his oath undermining the very system of laws he was sworn to uphold. He will now be held accountable for his crimes.” Mr. Currie expressed his grateful appreciation to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of the Inspector General; the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice; and the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice for their assistance in this case.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez stated, “Sampson’s decision to engage in corrupt and illegal behavior was further aggravated by his efforts to conceal the scheme from FBI agents charged with investigating his misconduct. As this case proves, we, along with our partners, will continue to root out obstruction of justice in all forms and at all levels of government.”

The evidence at trial and publicly filed documents in the case established that, among other things, Sampson, as an attorney practicing in Brooklyn, embezzled funds he held in escrow from the sale of real estate properties. Concerned that his theft might be discovered by law enforcement, in 2006 Sampson asked an associate for $188,500 to replenish the stolen funds. In exchange, Sampson used his position as a Senator to assist the associate’s real estate business interests.

In the summer of 2011, the associate was arrested and charged by this office with bank and wire fraud. Sampson feared that the associate might cooperate with the government and disclose Sampson’s embezzlement, so Sampson contacted a close personal friend, who was also a supervisory paralegal in this office, and asked him to find out if Sampson was under investigation and to obtain confidential information about the associate’s case, including the identities of cooperating witnesses. The paralegal agreed and reported his findings to Sampson.

Sampson told his associate about his source and added that if they could determine the identities of cooperating witnesses in the associate’s case, they could “take them out.” Sampson also suggested that they hire a private investigator to do the “dirty work.”

Sampson then directed his associate to withhold from the government evidence regarding the $188,500 payment. At a February 2012 meeting, the associate told Sampson that the government had subpoenaed the associate’s business records, including a check register page documenting the payment. The Associate showed the page to Sampson, who examined it and stated, “That’s a problem . . . I mean for me.” Sampson kept the page and instructed his associate not to disclose it to the government.

Kerry’s Mea Culpa

Yesterday on Meet The Press, Senator John Kerry admitted that his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq was “a mistake” and took full responsibility for his vote. He went on to call the vote his only regret in his years in the Senate.

That Senator Kerry would say this is unremarkable, considering the overwhelming evidence, three years later that the war was a mistake. However, considering that nearly the entire Republican party, along with several Democratic “leaders” (including the junior Senator for New York) continue to defend their vote in the face of the facts on the ground, let’s give Senator Kerry his due. We only wish he had the courage to cast his vote correctly the first time, or barring that, say what he said yesterday back in 2004. We might be facing a very different situation in Iraq if he had.

Rumsfeld and the Generals

Our campaign spends a lot of time discussing the failures of the Bush administration in bringing us into the Iraq war and Senator Clinton for her continued support of the Iraq war, but we should also take time to note how poorly executed the war has been. It’s remarkable to me that three years after the Iraq invasion, with all the tactical errors we’ve seen (even Condoleezza Rice suggested last week that “thousands” of mistakes have been made) that the person most responsible for generating the strategy for the invasion, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, still has a job.

Generals are traditionally reluctant to criticize the governement, especially during times of war. But recently a string of retired generals have suggested that enough is enough, and called for Rumsfeld to step down. The article notes that amongst the many causes for anger from the generals:

The Neocons And Senator Clinton

The big news yesterday was about Scooter Libby having implicated George W. Bush in the Valerie Plame leak trial… but at the Tasini For New York headquarters, someone passed along another story that took up most of our attention.

We’ve been out in the streets, all over the blogs and the web, and working the phones, proving to her constituents that the incumbent is a right-wing conservative who does not represent the interests of the American people, let alone New Yorkers.

This front-page story in American Conservative magazine will hopefully dispel those silly rumors that Senator Clinton is a “liberal” or “left-wing.” The article doesn’t even doubt Clinton’s support of the Bush administration’s positions, all but mocking her phony “regretful” e-mails to supporters expressing disappointment with the Iraq War. Read more at the following link