U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch urged attendees at a community meeting in Marine Park, Brooklyn, Thursday night to keep faith in the political process in the face of recent high-profile criminal cases involving area elected officials.
Don't "succumb to cynicism and apathy. Don't give up -- stay committed," said Lynch, who is the chief federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, which also includes, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island.
"Stay involved . . . Don't give up."
The crowd of 65 people at the meeting, which was sponsored by the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association, could be excused if they were less than optimistic at the beginning of the night about politicians and the political process. In fact, the last two state senators who have represented portions of the Marine Park area have faced corruption charges.
Sen. Carl Kruger was arrested in 2011 in a bribery probe. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Earlier this month, one of Kruger's replacements representing the area, Sen. John Sampson, was charged with embezzling $440,000 from an escrow fund he oversaw as a court-appointed referee for foreclosure sales in Brooklyn.
Federal prosecutors in Lynch's office said he used the money to finance a run for Brooklyn district attorney and recruited a mole in the U.S. attorney's office to try to thwart a federal probe.
Those cases brought high-profile political corruption into the quiet section of southern Brooklyn, the area's City Councilman Lewis Fidler told the audience before Lynch spoke.
"It has really landed on our doorstep," Fidler said.
When the audience was asked how many of them believed all politicians are corrupt, nearly everyone in attendance raised a hand.
Lynch told the audience, "We have to take back the system from the people who trampled on it. I don't own it, you own it."
Despite several other recent corruption cases at the city and state level, "I believe people can do things," said Fran Minichiello, a community activist and retired schoolteacher who was at the meeting "I feel . . . people have to do something."