Bronx State Senator Pedro Espada and his son Pedro Gautier Espada have pleaded not guilty to charges that they stole more than half a million dollars from a non-profit healthcare network they run in the Bronx.
A federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment yesterday alleging the pair used federal money to pay for personal luxuries such as pony rides at birthday parties, Broadway shows, baseball games and restaurant meals.
Senator Espada, 57, strolled into federal court in Brooklyn Wednesday afternoon looking relaxed and confident in a blue suit, white shirt and no tie. Bail was set at $750,000 and each of their wives appeared beside them to promise the judge they would come up with the money if their husbands disappeared. The son's wife raised long manicured fingernails in the air as she swore she was telling the truth.
Speaking outside the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Senator Espada said he's innocent.
"I do have abiding faith in the justice system and in the people that decide these matters, and I look forward to a full and complete vindication in court," he said.
His lawyer Susan Necheles chimed in, telling reporters that Espada set up Soundview Healthcare Network to provide healthcare to poor people in the Bronx.
"Senator Espada and his son deny the charges that he stole anything from Soundview. He built Soundview and created it. He didn't steal from it," she said.
The Democrat used to be Senate majority leader, but he was stripped of the title after the indictment was released. He lost his race for re-election this fall and his term will end at the end of this month.
Senator Espada and his son also had to surrender their passports; Senator Espada told the judge his passport was lost. His lawyer requested that the senator be allowed to travel to Puerto Rico, but did not say why.
Their next court appearance will be January 7th. Both of them are facing up to 10 years in prison on each of the embezzlement counts.