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Long IslandCrime

Espada convicted of looting Bronx clinic

Pedro Espada Jr. walks out of Brooklyn Federal

Pedro Espada Jr. walks out of Brooklyn Federal Court House in Brooklyn. (May 14, 2012) Credit: Jason Andrew

Former state Senate powerbroker Pedro Espada was convicted Monday of looting more than $500,000 from his nonprofit Soundview health network in the Bronx as Brooklyn federal court jurors broke a deadlock with a partial verdict on the 11th day of deliberations.

Espada, 58, a former Senate majority leader described by good government groups as a "poster boy" for Albany corruption, was ashen-faced as the jury forewoman read guilty verdicts for his lavish spending of Soundview's money on personal meals, home improvements and vacations from 2005 to 2008.

He faces up to 10 years on each of four counts for stealing from the community clinics he founded 30 years ago. Some jurors, leaving court, lamented his fall from low-income health advocate to thief.

"I think it's a shame someone started out with a good idea in the beginning, and then greed took over," said, Juror 5, identified in court records as Anita Coleman. "It's too bad for Soundview and the people of the Bronx."

Espada, after comforting his wife and family, left the courthouse flanked by two bodyguards and refused to speak with reporters. His attorney said an appeal is likely, but predicted the verdict would destroy the clinics. "It's a sad day for the Espada family, and an extremely sad day for the Soundview community," said defense lawyer Susan Necheles.

But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, whose office helped bring the case when he was attorney general, said the state was working to ensure care for Soundview's thousands of patients, and lauded the verdict. "Those who would abuse the public trust have a pointed lesson in the downfall of former Senator Espada," Cuomo said in a statement.

Espada, whose vote-switching in 2009 shifted control of the Senate back and forth between Democrats and Republicans, was charged along with his son, Pedro Gautier Espada, with using a Soundview credit card for personal expenses, and using a for-profit janitorial company to siphon money from the government-funded clinic.

Jurors deadlocked on all counts against the son, and also deadlocked on one theft charge and three conspiracy charges against the ex-senator. Speaking outside court, two jurors said the panel divided 9-3 for conviction for two weeks, with holdouts worried about a government anti-Espada "agenda" finally won over by a painstaking review of evidence.

"Most of us thought this was a clear-cut case, but apparently it wasn't a clear cut case for some of us," said Juror 3, who declined to give his name but was identified in court records as Benjamin Coleman.

The partial verdict followed several notes from the jury reporting personal acrimony. But one juror identified as the holdouts' leader -- Juror 2, identified in records as Fabiola St. Far -- denied obstructing deliberations, and described her decision to vote for conviction as an evolution. "By looking at the evidence," she said.


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