Tracie Hunte, Assistant Producer, WNYC News
Tracie Hunte is an Assistant Producer in the WNYC Newsroom.
Federal prosecutors will get a second chance this week to try to prove City Councilman Larry Seabrook misdirected hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to nonprofits he controlled.
A judge declared a mistrial in the case of the Bronx councilman last December. His retrial begins Tuesday.
Seabrook, 60, is facing 12 counts including fraud, money laundering and corruption – charges that carry between five and 20 years apiece.
Prosecutors allege that Seabrook directed City Council discretionary funds to a group of Bronx charities he controlled. They say he then directed that money to family members and friends, who sometimes directed them money back to him.
He's also accused of accepting a bribe. Seabrook denies the charges.
Prosecutors have a few challenges heading into the new trial.
Last year, one of their key witnesses, Seabrook's former girlfriend and the executive director of the charities at the center of the case, testified she was suffering from early-onset dementia. The government had granted her immunity for her testimony, but it turned out to be a low-point for prosecutors.
Another witness, a Bronx businessman who prosecutors said paid a $50,000 bribe to the defendant, later testified the money wasn't a bribe.
Attorney Alan Zegas, a Chatham, N.J.-based defense attorney who has represented several elected officials in criminal court, said knowing the prosecution’s game plan is useful in federal court because the defense has limited discovery before trial.
"With the case having been tried, the defense has an excellent preview of how the government strategically intends to try its case," he said.
The U.S. Attorneys office wouldn't comment on whether they'd be calling the same witnesses again, but two of the prosecutors from the previous trial have been replaced. Seabrook is sticking with his legal defense team, Edward Wilford and Anthony Ricco.