NYC Councilman's corruption trial begins
A federal prosecutor denounced City Councilman Larry Seabrook for "corrupt" and "illegal" schemes that steered more than $1 million to family and friends as the Bronx politician's retrial on corruption charges began Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan.
A jury last year deadlocked on the same 12 conspiracy and fraud charges against Seabrook, 60, a former member of the state Assembly and Senate accused of routing council funds to nonprofits he controlled that were run by his girlfriend, and of influence peddling in return for kickbacks.
"The money could have gone to legitimate groups but instead Councilman Seabrook used his position and power to steer money to his girlfriend and family . . . and to steer money to himself," prosecutor Steve Lee told jurors.
Seabrook's defense lawyer, however, told the jury that there would be no evidence that Seabrook was aware of the "dirty dealings" at the Bronx nonprofits he backed, and described him as a devoted public servant.
"Mr. Seabrook is a distinguished man," attorney Anthony Ricco said. "He's not the bum that was described, and he has had a lifetime of giving to his community with pride."
The charges say that Seabrook directed so-called discretionary funds that council members control to nonprofits that were supposed to use the money for job training, increasing diversity at the city fire department and other community purposes.
Seabrook also is charged with using phony receipts -- including a $177 charge for a bagel and Snapple -- to take kickbacks from a Bronx boiler manufacturer who he helped win a contract at Yankee Stadium.
In pretrial orders, U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts took steps to ratchet down emotions in the retrial of the case. Prosecutors were prohibited from referring to Seabrook by just his last name without a title and calling his girlfriend a "mistress."
Seabrook's lawyers, who compared his corruption charges to the persecution of Martin Luther King at the first trial, were barred from injecting "irrelevant and inappropriate" themes into the case.