LI lawyers acquitted after three-week corruption trial

A Google street view photo of the Eastern A Google street view photo of the Eastern District federal courthouse at 225 Cadman Plaza East in Brooklyn. Photo Credit: Google

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Two Long Island lawyers were acquitted Tuesday in federal court in Brooklyn of conspiracy, fraud and money-laundering charges linked to corruption at the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

Michael Freeman, 66, of Manhasset, a former chairman of the Nassau Community College board, and Lee Hymowitz, 62, of Oceanside, were charged in a kickback and bribery scheme involving former HPD assistant Commissioner Wendell Walters.

The jury returned its not guilty verdict on the second day of deliberations following a three-week trial.

Prosecutors alleged that Hymowitz and Freeman, partners in a New York City law firm, and developer Stevenson Dunn jointly owned a real estate company that allowed contractors on HPD projects to inflate their invoices in return for kickbacks.

Dunn, a high school friend of Walters, was also charged with bribing him. Hymowitz and Freeman were accused of concocting a sham legal retainer agreement to disguise more than $100,000 in kickbacks, which were then billed to taxpayers through HPD.

Defense lawyers for Hymowitz and Freeman argued that the retainer was legitimate and their clients weren't part of a kickback scheme.

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After the verdict, some jurors waited outside the courthouse to congratulate the defendants.

"I just want to get back to work and do what I do, which has been practicing law for the last 40 years," Freeman told a reporter.

Hymowitz declined to comment.

Dunn was also acquitted. Walters pleaded guilty to corruption charges in 2012 and appeared as a witness at the trial.

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