A mayor in upstate New York whose past year has been marred by protests over police brutality and her indictment in a campaign finance case now faces a new crisis: Her husband is charged with being part of a cocaine distribution ring.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren's husband, Timothy Granison, pleaded not guilty Thursday to criminal drug and weapons charges, following a seven-month investigation that authorities said involved wiretaps and a police search of the home Granison shares with Warren.
Granison appeared in Rochester City Court via video from the Monroe County jail, where he spent the night after investigators seized what State Police Maj. Barry Chase described as “a large quantity” of cocaine from his car. Two guns were seized from the couple's house.
Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley said Granison, 42, is among seven people charged so far with being part of “a midlevel drug organization that was infecting the city of Rochester.”
Warren herself was not charged. Doorley refused to answer questions about whether investigators believe the mayor, a Democrat, knew about or was involved in drug dealing.
“I’m not commenting at this point,” Doorley said at a news conference.
The arrest comes just a month before Warren faces off with city council member Malik Evans in a Democratic primary where she was still seen as the favored candidate, despite one of the roughest years experienced by any American mayor.
Warren characterized the arrest as politically motivated.
“I find the timing of yesterday’s events, three weeks before early voting starts, to be highly suspicious,” Warren said during a five-minute appearance before reporters at City Hall.
She said she signed a separation agreement with Granison years ago but the two were co-parenting their daughter.
“There's nothing implicating me in these charges today because I've done nothing wrong," she said.
Doorley, at an earlier news conference, denied that politics played a role in Granison's arrest.
Granison was not an initial target of the ongoing drug investigation, according to Doorley. The prosecutor said evidence had led investigators to him about three months ago, during the course of the investigation that has so far has yielded a total of more than 2 kilograms of cocaine and crack cocaine, $100,000 in cash, three guns and a rifle.
“If this is not about politics, why is Tim's next court date June 21, the day before primary day? Now that's quite the coincidence,” Warren said before ending her statement without taking questions.
Warren was indicted in October on charges she broke campaign finance rules during her last reelection campaign. The treasurers of her campaign and political action committees also are charged.
Warren, the first female and second Black mayor of Rochester — a city of around 205,000 people — has acknowledged making errors in the handling and reporting of campaign contributions but said they were honest mistakes, not crimes.
Warren also has deflected calls to resign over her handling of the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who stopped breathing after police placed him in a mesh hood and restrained him, naked, on the street after his brother called for help during a mental health crisis.
A report commissioned by the city council faulted Warren and a former police chief for keeping details of the case under wraps for months, until the Prude family obtained and released body camera video that sparked nightly protests in September. The March 2021 report said Warren lied to the public in the aftermath about what she knew and when she knew it, claims disputed by a special counsel to the city administration.
In April, a federal civil rights lawsuit named Warren and other city officials, accusing them of allowing a culture of police brutality against racial minorities.
Evans' campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Just before Warren's first inauguration in 2014, she faced questions about her husband's involvement in a jewelry store robbery that took place when he was 17.
Granison received five years of probation in connection with the 1997 robbery, while two other men were sentenced to prison terms.
In a statement, Warren had said Granison was judged as a youthful offender and his file was sealed, and that he did not have a criminal record.
She pointed to him as an example of someone who had turned his life around and said he had learned from the experience.
State police investigators want to interview the mayor as part of the current probe, Chase said, and were awaiting her attorney's response to their request.
Granison and a passenger were stopped at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday by members of the state police's violent gangs and narcotics enforcement, who suspected there were drugs in the vehicle, Chase said. City Court documents indicate Granison is accused of possessing 31 grams of cocaine.
He was charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance, including one with intent to sell.
A search of the mayor's home — one of seven locations searched Wednesday and Thursday — turned up a loaded unregistered gun, leading to a third charge of criminal possession of a weapon, Chase said. Police also found a semiautomatic rifle, which was being analyzed to determine whether it was in compliance with New York weapons laws.
“As of right now, we have very little information, not any more information than I alluded to in court,” Granison's attorney, John DeMarco, told reporters after the hearing. “There’s these two charges that allege possession of contraband that appears to be cocaine and an allegation that there was a firearm inside the home that was not registered to anybody that they believed to be residing in the home.”