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Hempstead Village trustee faces new charges that include alleged witness tampering

Trustee Perry Pettus was also indicted in July,

Trustee Perry Pettus was also indicted in July, on charges of bribe receiving, official misconduct, attempted grand larceny and conspiracy.   Credit: Raychel Brightman

Hempstead Village Trustee Perry Pettus was arrested again Tuesday on new charges, including alleged witness tampering and forging financial documents, following his July indictment for allegedly extorting local Hispanic businesses.

Pettus pleaded not guilty on Tuesday before acting State Supreme Court Justice William O’Brien during his arraignment in Nassau County Court.

Pettus, in handcuffs and wearing a white dress shirt and black slacks, surrendered to authorities Tuesday morning. The new charges against him are 20 counts of falsifying business records, two counts of tampering with a witness, four counts of official misconduct, seven counts of grand larceny, six counts of bribe-receiving, six counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument, two counts of conspiracy, two counts of attempted grand larceny and one count of making a punishable false written statement, according to court records. 

The charges were contained in two new indictments brought by the Nassau County district attorney’s office.

Pettus is Hempstead’s former deputy mayor and was first elected to the village’s board of trustees in 2002. He remains a village trustee.

“We are aware of this situation, and since it is an ongoing investigation have no further comment at this time,” Mayor Don Ryan said in a statement.

Prosecutor Lisa Berk accused Pettus of “shaking down” a victim for a “birthday gift” weeks after his birthday, as well as contacting a witness in August regarding the earlier case while he was out on bail and asking “that witness to falsely claim that this witness had not paid” a bribe.

Berk also said that the new charges included allegations that Pettus falsified pay stubs and other records in 2016 and 2017 to obtain a mortgage for a home he and his wife — Kennetha, who is the Nassau County director of housing and Hempstead Village’s planning board chairwoman — had purchased in North Carolina. The prosecutor also requested a bail source hearing in light of the financial charges.

Members of Pettus’ family attended the hearing but declined to comment.

O’Brien said he was “concerned” about the new charges and set bail at $100,000 bond or $50,000 cash for one case, and $10,000 bond or $5,000 cash for the other. He was taken into custody and is due to return to court on Oct. 30.

Jim Druker, Pettus’ Garden City attorney, said in a phone interview that the new indictments seem “ridiculous at this point. … It’s just piling on, it’s silly.”

Prosecutors, in this case and during the July arraignment of Pettus, alleged that he worked with Hempstead businessman William Mendez, who acted as an intermediary in their bribery and extortion scheme.

Mendez is to be arraigned Wednesday on additional charges.

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