A prosecutor charged Tuesday that former State Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada and his son turned the nonprofit Soundview health clinic he controlled in the Bronx into a fast-cash machine in a no-holds-barred summation at Espada's federal corruption trial.
"The evidence has shown that the defendants used Soundview as their ATM -- using it to pay for everything from coffee to cars to birthday parties, vacations and even home repairs," prosecutor Todd Kaminsky told jurors in Brooklyn federal court.
But as Kaminsky alternated between outrage and mockery in a 2 1/2-hour closing that continues Wednesday, Espada buried his nose in a book at the defense table, barely looking up as he alternated between "Black Robes, White Justice," a critique of the courts, and a passage in the Bible. "Asking the Lord to protect me from my enemies," he said afterwards. "It's a psalm."
Espada, 58, and his son Pedro Gautier Espada, 38, are accused of looting more than $600,000 from the government-funded health network he founded, through lavish spending on restaurants ($103,000) and other personal expenses, exorbitant payments to a for-profit cleaning company Espada controlled, misappropriating rent payments and other schemes.
Kaminsky told jurors that Espada, whose annual salary was more than $200,000, "abused the trust" of doctors, patients and taxpayers because he felt that after 30 years of running the health center, "I am Soundview."
Espada is charged with using a Soundview credit card for more than $11,000 in home improvements and failing to reimburse the cash-strapped health center. "The defense wants you to think the senator had his entire house remodeled, and had no idea how it happened," Kaminsky said. "They want you to think he saw all this and drove away in the morning thinking, 'Were we part of an "Extreme Home Makeover" that I didn't know about?' "
While a senator in Albany in 2009, Espada is also accused on more than three dozen occasions of collecting a $160 per diem expense fee from the state for meals and other expenses, and charging meals to Soundview -- including one $400 tab at Albany's Brown Derby -- on the same day.