Hint Bronx corruption probe could widen
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The existence of an earlier sealed version of an indictment in the case of New York State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson may involve one or more unnamed defendants and has raised speculation that there may be additional cooperating witnesses helping prosecutors in their corruption probe against the Bronx politician, some legal experts said.
Clues about the existence of the still secret indictment were first revealed when Manhattan federal prosecutors on May 2 unsealed the Stevenson indictment with the notation "S1," indicating that it was a superseding document and not the original. Generally, superseding indictments are routinely filed as follow-up documents when there are new defendants or other changes.
A few days later, prosecutors at the end of a federal court hearing and under prodding by Judge William H. Pauley III made the comment that the original indictment didn't involve Stevenson and his four co-defendants.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Krieger didn't elaborate. He had stated earlier the case had "potential ongoing parts."
When Stevenson and four others were originally charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy in April, court documents disclosed the existence of a confidential witness, or "CW," and another state assemblyman who helped in the investigation. The assemblyman was later identified as Nelson Castro of the Bronx, who resigned last month and admitted he had been helping in the federal probe after being ensnared in a Bronx state case.
Court records also stated that the confidential witness began to cooperate in April 2012 and had pleaded guilty to a federal criminal information involving unspecified charges. Media reports identified the witness as Sigfredo Gonzalez of the Bronx, an unsuccessful candidate for the Assembly. He couldn't be reached for comment.
Albert Dayan, who is representing one of Stevenson's co-defendants, said Monday that the secret indictment probably is part of a conspiracy charge involving the confidential witness and Castro.
But Tuesday Castro's defense attorney, Michael C. Farkas, said his client faces no federal indictment of any sort.
The Manhattan U.S. attorney's office referred a reporter to the court transcript.
James DiPietro, a former prosecutor not involved in the case, said keeping the original indictment under seal is part of legal gamesmanship to keep the names of cooperators secret for as long as possible.
Steven K. Frankel, a former federal prosecutor, said he thought the legal machinations indicated the government had a bigger case brewing. "It seems more likely they had [charges] against one or more people and sealed it," Frankel said.