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.
In the third week of the federal corruption trial of City Councilman Larry Seabrook, who is accused of pocketing more than a million dollars in city funds, a government witness had trouble recalling key details.
The Bronx councilman is alleged to have used non-profits he controlled as a way to pocket more than a million dollars in City Council discretionary grants — most of which, prosecutors say, he passed on to friends and family.
Gloria Jones-Grant, a former girlfriend of Seabrook, testified Monday under a grant of immunity from federal prosecutors.
Jones-Grant served as the executive director of the non-profits at the heart of the case against Seabrook. The groups — the Northeast Bronx Redevelopment Corporation, the African-American Legal Civic Hall of Fame and the Mercy Foundation — received more than $2.5 million dollars from City Council discretionary funds from 2002 through 2009, according to prosecutors.
While on the stand, she admitted that she committed two instances of forgery, but when it came to alleged cash payments actually made to Seabrook, Jones-Grant's memory was cloudy. She repeatedly said, "I don't recall" in response to prosecutors questions. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Wible intimated that Jones-Grant was backtracking, and asked her repeatedly to recall what she had told investigators before the trial.
In one exchange Jones-Grant explained a cash payment to Seabrook as just an installment on an outstanding $18,000 loan she had gotten from the Bronx councilman.
She did tell the court that the actual operating budget for one of the non-profits that got funding through the City Council was drafted by the councilman himself.
Prosecutors allege that Seabrook also systematically inflated his expense claims to the city and City Council, netting himself tens of thousands of dollars illegally.
Early in the trial federal prosecutors suffered a set back when a Bronx contractor denied Federal allegations that tens of thousands of dollars he paid to Seabrook's nonprofits was part of a bribery scheme to win the councilman’s help in getting work at the new the Yankee Stadium.
Seabrook has steadfastly maintained his innocence and has been joined in court by his wife, extended family and supporters throughout the trial.
The trial is expected to be wrapped up by week's end.