Nine New York City Democrats, including state senators, a city council member and two political operatives, were secretly recorded by a former lawmaker seeking leniency for her role in a corruption scandal, and nearly all of them are under criminal investigation, according to court documents filed Wednesday.
The names were released over the objections of federal prosecutors who said in a separate filing a day earlier that eight of the nine were under criminal investigation and their names should not be made public.
Names of the other people secretly recorded by ex-Sen. Shirley Huntley and released Wednesday were: State Sens. Eric Adams, Ruth Hassel-Thompson, Jose Peralta and Velmanette Montgomery; City Council member Rubin Wills, who was Huntley’s chief of staff before he ran for the council in a 2010 special election; former political consultant Melvin Lowe; and Curtis Taylor, a former press adviser to Smith.
Adams, a Brooklyn Democrat who had once been a captain in the New York Police Department, is a virtual shoo-in for Brooklyn borough president. He released a statement that he was not contacted by the district attorney and is innocent.
“I believe deeply in transparency and the pursuit of justice,” Adams said, “and that is why I committed 20 years of my life to law enforcement.” He added that he was “more than willing to help with any investigation.”
Peralta is an up-and-coming Latino leader. Thompson and Montgomery are civil rights advocates — Montgomery for those accused of crimes, and Thompson for minorities.
It marks the second time the government has acknowledged using a legislator to record conversations with colleagues as part of a criminal probe.
The names appear in a previously sealed letter written by Huntley’s lawyer ahead of her sentencing on Thursday, in an effort to show Huntley’s cooperation with authorities. The Queens Democrat admitted embezzling nearly $88,000 from a state-funded nonprofit she controlled when she pleaded guilty to mail fraud conspiracy last winter. Prosecutors are recommending five years’ probation. Huntley took office in 2007 and lost a re-election bid last year.
Judge Jack Weinstein ordered the names released after news organizations requested them.
“Every legislator who has conversed with this defendant will necessarily assume that he or she was recorded,” he wrote. “There will be no surprises to the potentially accused by the revelations of their names.”
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn noted that the council has already stripped Wills of his position on the council’s budget negotiating team and his ability to allocate money to community groups in his district. Those powers were revoked last year, after it emerged that the state attorney general was looking into what had become of roughly $30,000 in state money that Huntley arranged to allocate to a nonprofit Wills led.
“If further action needs to be taken, I can’t comment on that yet, because I need to get that information,” Quinn said.