Congressional candidate Kevan Abrahams is revisiting his Democratic primary foe Kathleen Rice's probe of a high-profile political influence case in an attempt to make it an election issue -- drawing a strong rebuke from Rice's campaign.
Abrahams, the Nassau County Legislature's minority leader, and Rice, the Nassau district attorney, are in a 4th District race to succeed Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola).
In advance of the June 24 primary, Abrahams is repeating criticism previously leveled by county Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs: that Rice should have charged former Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Dale with witness tampering for ordering the arrest of a central figure in an elections case.
Abrahams questioned whether Rice's decision not to file criminal charges against Dale was influenced by the ties between a member of her staff and some targets of her probe.
"I believe the commissioner committed a crime," Abrahams said in an interview last week. Of Rice, he said, "It seems like a lack of good judgment."
Rice campaign spokesman Eric Phillips said the district attorney has targeted public corruption while Abrahams played "partisan politics, so it isn't surprising that he wants to politicize the DA's office or that he's upset Kathleen Rice is following the facts and not his political interests."
In October, Dale had officers pull Roosevelt resident Randy White off a county bus on an outstanding misdemeanor warrant for failing to pay a $250 court fine. According to a report released by Rice's office, the arrest was prompted by Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius calling Dale on behalf of the third-party county executive campaign of former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick.
The campaign wanted White charged with perjury for testifying in court that Hardwick had paid him for each ballot petition signature that he collected. Petitioners can only legally be paid per hour, not per signature.
Police declined to pursue the perjury charge, but White was soon arrested on the warrant. He was then served with a civil subpoena by Hardwick's campaign while in police custody.
Rice's report last year to County Executive Edward Mangano led to Dale's resignation. But Abrahams questioned if Rice, in not charging Dale, was influenced by the relationship her chief investigator, Chuck Ribando, has with Melius, who was close to Dale.
Ribando has attended social functions at Oheka Castle, as have many other law enforcement and political figures, and his daughter was married at the Huntington estate.
"She should publicly respond to whether she knew about her investigator's ties to Melius," Abrahams said.
Rice is still investigating the circumstances surrounding the subpoena. DA spokesman Shams Tarek said Friday the probe "is being led by attorneys from the DA's Public Corruption Bureau, and nobody else."
Melius, who has said he believed neither he nor Dale did anything wrong in the case, criticized Abrahams' attempt to raise issues with Ribando.
"What does Chuck have to do with any of this?" Melius said last week. "Kathleen makes the decisions in her office, not Chuck."