A federal jury convicted Suffolk County Conservative Party leader Edward Walsh in just an hour Thursday after a 10-day trial in which the government used thousands of records to prove Walsh was golfing, gambling and politicking on county time.
Walsh was convicted of wire fraud and theft of government funds for illegally collecting more than $200,000 in pay and overtime pay for time spent in activities outside the Suffolk jail in Riverhead when he was supposed to be tending to his duties as a lieutenant.
Robert Capers, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, who was in the courthouse at the time of the verdict, congratulated prosecutors Catherine Mirabile and Raymond Tierney when they left the courtroom, hugging Mirabile.
“We thank the jury for their kind consideration and justice will be done,” Capers said.
Walsh showed no emotion as the verdict was delivered by the foreman of the 12-member jury in federal court in Central Islip. Walsh declined to comment as did members of his family.
One of Walsh’s attorneys, William Wexler, of North Babylon, speaking to reporters, said he was “surprised” by the verdict and the speed of the deliberations.
“The jury has spoken,” Wexler said. “We accept the verdict. And we’ll review and if there’s an appeal, we’ll certainly appeal it, but I accept the jury verdict.”
The jurors got the case just before 3:30 p.m. and returned a verdict about 4:30 p.m.
Jury foreman Cosmo Laurino said the government’s case was very strong and the “overabundance of evidence” led to the guilty verdicts.
“It was circumstantial evidence that was overwhelming,” said Laurino. “It wasn’t one thing; it was many things. It was obvious.”
Laurino, an insurance agent, said that although jurors reached their verdict in an hour, they were careful. “We took our time to make sure we were thorough and make sure everybody was comfortable,” he said. “We didn’t want to do it in five minutes. We wanted to make sure.”
The remaining jurors who could be reached declined to comment.
Walsh faces 33 to 41 months in federal prison under recommended federal sentencing guidelines, though he theoretically could get as much as 30 years. He also faces forfeiture of the more than $200,000 he was convicted of stealing, as well as a fine of up to $250,000.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt set sentencing for July 15.
Suffolk Sheriff Vincent DeMarco said in a statement: “Edward Walsh lined his pockets with taxpayer money, and today justice was served.”
The federal case against Walsh began when DeMarco went to federal prosecutors with concern about Walsh’s time sheets after, DeMarco said, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota declined to act. Spota has denied this, saying DeMarco did not cooperate.
Before the verdict came in, Tierney summed up the government’s case, saying that Walsh “thought he was special ... He thought he could rig the game so the rules didn’t apply to him ... The defendant isn’t special. The defendant is a thief and he needs to be held accountable.”
The government’s case was based on comparing Walsh’s cellphone records with other personal records such as golfing, gambling, bank deposits, and Conservative Party reimbursements for activities. Prosecutors argued that the records showed Walsh was in other locations when he put in for work at the Riverhead jail.
Walsh’s attorneys have said that DeMarco, a fellow member of the Conservative Party, was seeking revenge because Walsh, the leader of the state’s largest Conservative Party chapter, would not support him for a congressional nomination. They argued that DeMarco had been permitted to be outside the jail because he was a community liaison for the sheriff.
Defense attorney Leonard Lato, of Hauppauge, in his summation, attacked DeMarco.
“Sheriff DeMarco has no credibility,” Lato said, calling him a “dishonest and vindictive man.” He said: “Ed Walsh shouldn’t be in the courtroom. Vincent DeMarco should be.”
Federal investigators probing corruption in Long Island law enforcement and politics have subpoenaed investigators in the Suffolk district attorney’s office and sent a target letter to a key prosecutor, Newsday has reported. Nobody in the office has been charged with any wrongdoing.
In his summation, Tierney said that Walsh was so confident that his enormous political power would shield him from scrutiny, he told sheriff investigators that Spota wouldn’t intervene.
“ ‘If you’re worried about the other agency across the river doing anything, don’t ... They aren’t going to do anything’ — that’s what this defendant told internal affairs investigators,” Tierney said, referring to trial testimony from witnesses.
The sheriff’s internal affairs unit is across the Peconic River in Riverhead from the district attorney’s office.
A spokesman for Spota has declined to comment on the trial and Thursday did not return requests for comment.