Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who covers criminal justice, terrorism and the courts for WNYC. She found her way into public radio after practicing law for five years, and can definitely say that walking the streets of New York City with a microphone is a lot more fun than being holed up in the office writing letters to opposing counsel.
Bronx Councilman's Public Corruption Trial Winds Down
Monday, November 28, 2011
Prosecutors expect to finish putting on their case this week in the public corruption trial of City Councilman Larry Seabrook of the Bronx.
Seabrook, whose trial in Manhattan federal court is entering its fourth week, is facing 12 counts of accepting corrupt payments, money laundering and fraud. He is a former assemblyman and state senator.
Federal prosecutors are accusing the councilman — a presence in Bronx Democratic politics for decades — of selling his influence and taking money for family and friends for years. Between 2002 and 2009, Seabrook directed more than a million dollars in city council discretionary funds to nonprofit organizations in the Bronx. These funds were supposed to be used for the benefit the community, but prosecutors accuse Seabrook of controlling some of these groups and transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees to his girlfriend, his brother, two sisters and a nephew.
Prosecutors also accuse Seabrook of lobbying the Yankees to award a Yankee Stadium construction contract worth about $300,000 to a friend's boiler company, A.L. Eastmond & Sons, in 2006. Over the next three years, Seabrook allegedly solicited a series of payments from the company's owner, Arlington Leon Eastmond, totaling about $50,000. Eastmond took the stand at trial and said Seabrook had never solicited kickbacks from him and that he had paid Seabrook money because he "believed in the man."
Seabrook is also charged with lining his pockets with false reimbursements. Prosecutor say Seabrook controlled the Northeast Bronx Democratic Club and would siphon money from the organization by submitting doctored receipts. One highly publicized instance involved a receipt for a bagel and soda that originally cost $7. The receipt was defaced to justify a reimbursement for $177.
An employee who handles finances for the club testified at the trial that he wasn't in the habit of scrutinizing the councilman's receipts when they were submitted for reimbursement.
Seabrook has adamantly denied the charges against him. He faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the top charges.