A political operative stole more than $1 million from Mayor Michael Bloomberg because he was desperate to control his father's house when he died, a prosecutor charged in opening arguments in the trial against the consultant on Monday.
John Haggerty didn't have the funds, but he did have access to Bloomberg's campaign money, assistant district attorney Brian Weinberg said Monday. But the defense claimed Haggerty was a scapegoat.
"There is fraud here, but it's campaign fraud by Mr. Bloomberg and his people," lawyer Raymond Castello said in his opening statement at Haggerty's trial.
The defense told Manhattan jurors Monday that the case would revolve around the billionaire mayor, and they sought to paint a picture of a self-financed candidate surrounded by loyalists who skirted campaign rules, blurred the line between the public and private sphere and didn't hesitate to bend the law to Bloomberg's benefit.
"This case is about winning at all costs. That's what Michael Bloomberg is all about," Castello told the jurors. "He spent over $100 million to win his third term as mayor of New York City. And he did not want to lose."
Prosecutors gave a less dramatic accounting of events, saying that Haggerty had outlined plans to provide more than 1,300 poll-watchers and instead pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars and executed a cover-up after questions were raised by a reporter.
Haggerty is accused of getting the mayor to fork over $1.2 million to the state Independence Party for a party-wide poll watching initiative in 2009 when Bloomberg was running for re-election. The unaffiliated mayor was the Independence Party's top candidate.
Prosecutors say Haggerty pocketed most of the money rather than using it as planned. Haggerty says he did the work he was paid for.
Bloomberg may be the trial's star witness. A judge has ordered prosecutors and defense lawyers not to talk about the case outside court.
With the Associated Press