State Senator Pleads Not Guilty in Federal Corruption Case

State Sen. John Sampson, a Democrat representing parts of Brooklyn, pleaded not guilty in federal court on Monday to charges of embezzlement, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI. 

Federal prosecutors already have offered a plea deal to Sampson, who had his first court appearance Monday. His lawyer did not respond publicly to the offer.

Sampson was a court-appointed referee to watch over escrow accounts for sales of foreclosed properties in Brooklyn. It's alleged he embezzled $440,000 between 1998 and 2008.

He's also accused of funneling funds into his failed campaign for Brooklyn DA.

The charges against Sampson come less than a week after prosecutors revealed that former Sen. Shirley Huntley made numerous secret recordings of other elected officials in a bid for leniency in her own corruption case.

Sampson, who represents the 19th senatorial district encompassing Canarsie, East New York, Mill Basin, Marine Park and Sheepshead Bay, was elected to the Senate in 1996. 

He is a member and past chairman of the New York Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Sampson has been stripped of his ranking positions and committee assignments.

FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said in a statement Monday that "incumbent and defendant cannot be accepted as interchangeable."

"Elected officials are referred to as public servants, and that should not be confused with self-serving," he said.

Messages left with Sampson's district office and his attorney were not immediately returned.

U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said Sampson allegedly abused public trust "for years" and stole from New Yorkers whose homes were in foreclosure.

“But the former Senate ethics leader didn’t stop there," Lynch said in a statement. "Senator Sampson allegedly stole that money to fund his own ambition to become Brooklyn’s top state prosecutor, then engaged in an elaborate obstruction scheme to hide his illegal conduct, going so far as to counsel lies and the hiding of evidence.”

The allegations against Sampson follow last month's arrests of State Sen. Malcolm Smith, New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran and two New York City GOP leaders on federal bribery charges.

According to court documents, Smith, a Democrat, allegedly schemed with Halloran, a Republican, to bribe Bronx and Queens Republican county chairs for a GOP line on this year's mayoral ballot. All four pleaded not guilty to various corruption charges in late April.

Separately, New York State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson was also arrested in April, charged with accepting bribes in exchange for official acts. He denies the allegations.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced several anti-corruption proposals in the wake of the bribery scandal. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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