The trial of Edward Walsh, the politically influential Suffolk Conservative Party chairman, is scheduled to start Wednesday in federal court in Central Islip. It is being heard by a jury of six men and six women, and is expected to last three weeks. Here is a primer on the case.
Besides his political position, Walsh, 50, is a recently retired lieutenant in the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department. Walsh plays a key role in the nomination of judges and other officials because of the Conservative Party’s clout.
Federal prosecutors Catherine Mirabile and Ray Tierney have accused Walsh of theft of government funds and wire fraud, saying that he collected more than $80,000 in pay from 2011 to 2014, for hours he never worked. Walsh submitted pay slips for allegedly working when he was actually engaged in Conservative Party political activities, gambling, golfing, getting clothing tailored or relaxing at home, prosecutors say.
Walsh and his attorneys, William Wexler, of North Babylon, and Leonard Lato, of Hauppauge, say that the charges are bogus because Walsh was supposed to act as liaison to politicians and the community, which meant he often worked outside the jail. His work hours were flexible, and he was allowed to make up any time he put in for, the defense says.
The hidden agenda?
Walsh’s defense lawyers say prosecutors are trying to pressure Walsh into giving them information about political corruption on Long Island. They also say Suffolk Sheriff Vincent DeMarco alleged the overbilling scheme as revenge when Walsh failed to endorse the sheriff’s run for Congressin 2014.
The judge’s call
Although attorneys for both sides submitted Tuesday a potential witness list with more than 60 names that included well-known county and state politicians, the trial likely won’t reveal behind-the-scenes workings of local politics or law enforcement. U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt says he will exclude evidence not directly related to the theft and wire fraud charges, saying: “This is a very simple case. . . . The government says the defendant is guilty of theft and lying about it.” Spatt said he would severely limit remarks that did not deal with the two crimes, calling other information either irrelevant or prejudicial.