Boyland trial focuses on meaning of his actions

Brooklyn Assembly Member William F. Boyland Jr. leaves

Brooklyn Assembly Member William F. Boyland Jr. leaves Federal Court in Brooklyn on March 3, 2014, after closing arguments in his corruption trial. (Credit: Anthony Lanzilote)

Both sides agreed that Brooklyn Assemb. William Boyland solicited more than $250,000 from two undercover FBI agents in closing arguments at his federal corruption trial Monday, but the prosecution called it bribery while the defense said it was just a scam.

"We've taken you into the underbelly of the defendant's corrupt, secretive and deceitful schemes," prosecutor Lan Nguyen told jurors in Brooklyn federal court. "Each one was designed to line his pockets at the expense of his constituents."

In addition to seeking money from the agents, posing as corrupt businessmen, in return for promised help with carnival permits and a real estate deal, Boyland is accused of skimming state money from a nonprofit and filing $71,000 in phony legislative travel vouchers

But defense lawyer Nancy Ennis, repeating the argument she began the case with, said the most serious charge -- bribery -- was off-base because Boyland tried to scam money from the agents with empty promises of favors without actually ever helping them.

She played a taped excerpt from the final meeting one of the agents had with Boyland, after nearly a year of meetings and contacts.

"Promises, promises, promises, and I've got to be honest with you," the agent complained. "I feel that's all I'm getting from you. Promises and no action. And I gotta be honest with you. I need action."

She said Boyland, who took more than $10,000 in cash and eventually asked for $250,000, was desperate for money to pay legal fees in another case, but never sold his office.

"Mr. Boyland's intent was to scam a pair of corrupt businessmen who were trying to scam him," she said. "If actions speak louder than words, then Mr. Boyland's inaction was deafening."

At the monthlong trial, Boyland's former chief of staff Ryan Hermon, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, testified that Boyland ordered her to help the businessmen, and he provided letters of support for their carnival plans as well, prosecutors say.

Also, Boyland's father, former Assemb. William "Frank" Boyland Sr., an unindicted co-conspirator, was seen on a secretly recorded video taking $3,000 from the undercover and telling him it was "against the law." Ennis told jurors he might have been joking.

Boyland, 43, a Democrat in his sixth term, could face more than 100 years in prison if he is convicted on all charges in the 21-count indictment.

His trial is the latest in a string of political corruption cases that have raised widespread concerns about Albany ethics. Closing arguments are expected to conclude Tuesday.

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