N.Y. Lawmaker Who Wired Colleagues Sentenced to One Year

NEW YORK -

A former New York state senator who admitted embezzling nearly $88,000 from a state-funded nonprofit she controlled has been sentenced to one year and one day in prison.

Shirley Huntley, 74, apologized for her crime as she was sentenced Thursday by Brooklyn federal Judge Jack Weinstein. She pleaded guilty to mail fraud conspiracy and had faced up to two years behind bars. She said she would try to use her remaining years to redeem herself to her family and community.

The Queens Democrat took office in 2007 and lost a re-election bid last year.

Government officials revealed last week that Huntley had been working with them to expose corruption, secretly recording nine people in her home. Two were charged. They refused to say whether any others would be charged.

The names were released Wednesday despite objections by federal prosecutors, who said eight were under investigation.

The names include state senators Malcolm Smith and John Sampson, who have already been charged; state senators 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.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn said he could not reveal which one of the nine wasn’t under investigation.

Huntley agreed to spy on her colleagues after she was promised leniency in her own case. Federal prosecutors wired her Queens house, then had her invite other legislators over to talk about corrupt business deals and pending legislation to benefit political donors. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that he had an eye out for all the legislators invited.

Under the guise that she had broken an ankle, Huntley asked the accused lawmakers to meet her at her Jamaica address.

The New York Times reported that one of the participants recalled Huntley sitting on a couch in a small room in the back of her house, chain-smoking cigarettes or sipping wine. None knew that she was recording every sentence of their shady dealings, to be replayed later in the Bronx DA’s office and in an upcoming trial.

Huntley’s agenda was simple. She hoped that cooperation would help her case. Furthermore, according to her lawyer, she had told investigators that she believed some of her fellow public officials were corrupt.

It was not the first time federal investigators used the wiring tactic. When five elected officials were arrested a month ago — including a state senator, a New York City councilman, the mayor and deputy mayor of Spring Valley, the Bronx GOP chairman and the Queens deputy GOP chairman — Bharara revealed that they had been ensnared by Assemblyman Nelson Castro, a Bronx Democrat.

Meanwhile, speculation swirled Wednesday about Adams, who is running unopposed for Brooklyn borough president. While he has denied that the district attorney has contacted him, the former cop may gain a primary opponent.

City Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Crown Heights), who is currently struggling to raise money in her public advocate bid against state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Williamsburg), strenuously denied thinking of dropping out and running for Brooklyn beep instead.

“I am absolutely running for public advocate. Rumors to the contrary are unfounded,” James said in a statement late Wednesday night.

But that did not stop several political sources from claiming that she was seriously considering the move.

“There’s definitely blood in the water, and the sharks are circling,” one pundit told the Daily News.

“It will definitely give others an opportunity to get in the race,” political consultant E. O’Brien Murray said. “Any political opponent looks for an opening, and this could very well be one. Campaigns are challenged enough without a cloud hanging over.”

Meanwhile, police said they are investigating a break-in at the home of Assemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-Queens), an ally of Huntley.

According to the New York Post, Cook believes that whoever broke into her Jamaica home Monday night was looking for Huntley-related documents. The burglar went through her personal papers but bypassed many valuables.