Councilman's Corruption Retrial Begins

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A jury heard opening statements in the retrial of a city councilman accused of cheating the city out of more than a million dollars in city funds.

Prosecutors told the jury in his opening statement that Bronx Democrat Larry Seabrook misdirected hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds meant for community projects to benefit his family and friends.

A lawyer for Seabrook told jurors that prosecutors lacked the facts to support their charges. He said his client has "heroically" provided support to his community for decades. Seabrook had also served as a state assemblyman and senator.

Seabrook, 60, is facing 12 counts including fraud, money laundering and corruption — charges that carry between five and 20 years apiece. He's also accused of accepting a bribe.

The retrial began six months after a judge declared a mistrial after the jury remained deadlocked on all counts after a week of deliberations.

U.S. Attorney Preet Baharara vowed in December to retry the case. In a statement he said, "Public corruption erodes the public's confidence in its elected officials and it degrades our democracy."

But prosecutors will have a few challenges this go around, as WNYC reported:

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.

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.

With the Associated Press