WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
Haggerty Convicted of Stealing from Mayor As Jurors Opine on Money in Politics
Friday, October 21, 2011 - 06:48 PM
After three days, the jury in the John Haggerty case reached a verdict that gave both sides something to crow about.
The jury did not convict the former Bloomberg political consultant of the most serious charge he faced, grand larceny in the first degree. The threshold for grand larceny is the theft of over a million dollars.
Jurors, however, did find Haggerty guilty of stealing over $50,000 dollars and laundering the funds to conceal it.
They said Haggerty's deceptive e-mails to Bloomberg campaign staffers documented a criminal intent on his part.
Juror Steven Conroy said the more than 20 notes the jury sent out to Judge Ronald Zweibel for clarifications and legal definitions helped them reach consensus.
“We didn't think Bloomberg was a victim," Conroy told several reporters afterwards. "We wanted to make sure we had everything right, who has ownership, what is the definition of an agent. And we did have to keep going out there to get it right."
Haggerty could face a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in jail or a minimum of one to three years. His defense Attorney, Dennis Vacco, tried to put the verdict in the best light.
"We are pleased that they acquitted on the top count," Vacco told reporters. "The significance of grand larceny in the first degree was that it would require mandatory incarceration. So while we are disappointed at the outcome we have another day to fight."
Vacco said it was still possible his client could just get probation. Vacco also vowed to appeal. Haggerty is due back in court for sentencing on November 4.
The jurors said the month long trial gave them a look at the impact of big money in politics. The jurors heard about the inner-workings of the Bloomberg campaign where top consultants got as much as a $400,000 bonus — legally. That topped off a campaign that costs more than $108 million dollars, or roughly a hundred dollars a vote.
Juror Piper Gray, who works for a fashion website, said before the trial she had no opinions about money in politics. "Oh, I had no opinions and now I’m probably never going to donate to a campaign so, or at least do some pretty good research."
Another juror suggested that Haggerty's scheme relied on the belief that because of the very scale of Bloomberg's spending no one would notice.
"What the defendant was banking on was that there was $109 million dollars spent on the campaign," said juror Michael Boyce, who is studying pharmacology at Weil-Cornell Medical School. "What's a million dollars to $109 million dollars, not very much."
According to the city's Campaign Finance Board, the $1.2 million at issue in the trial that Mayor Bloomberg donated to the New York State Independence Party for Haggerty's ballot-security project was not included in the Mayor's actually campaign total.
One reporter asked juror Conroy, who works on the finance end of show business, what he learned about politics by sitting through the trial. "That I am in the wrong business," Conroy quipped.