65° Good Evening
65° Good Evening
Long IslandSuffolk

Edward Walsh, Suffolk Conservative leader, rejects plea bargain in wire fraud, theft of government funds case

Edward Walsh, Suffolk Conservative Party chairman and sheriff's

Edward Walsh, Suffolk Conservative Party chairman and sheriff's lieutenant, right, is seen in an April 2015 file photo. Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk County Conservative Party leader Edward Walsh, indicted a month ago on charges of theft of government funds and wire fraud, has rejected a plea bargain offered by federal prosecutors, his attorney said Thursday.

Defense attorney Leonard Lato did not outline the terms of the proposed plea bargain, or when it had been offered, as he spoke at a hearing at federal District Court in Central Islip.

"He is continuing to go on . . . and has not accepted any plea the government has come up with," Lato said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile, who was at the hearing, did not dispute Lato's assertion.

Sources familiar with the case said the deal would have involved Walsh pleading guilty to one count of theft of government funds and facing a sentence under suggested federal guidelines of 33 months to 41 months in prison. The wire fraud charge would have been dropped.

Prosecutors charge that Walsh collected more than $80,000 by falsely claiming he was doing his job as a lieutenant at the Suffolk County Jail, while he was actually golfing, gambling or engaged in political activities.

Conviction on theft of government funds theoretically carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, while a wire fraud conviction could carry a sentence of up to 20 years. But it's not uncommon for judges to give far less than the maximum under the law.

If there is a cooperation agreement, it would be worked out after any plea agreement is reached, the sources said.

Lato, of Hauppauge, and Walsh's other defense attorney, William Wexler of Babylon, maintained after the hearing, as they have in the past, that their client is innocent and will be exonerated in court.

Wexler and Lato also have previously said that before Walsh was charged, FBI agents and prosecutors had approached Walsh for his cooperation under the assumption that he had information about corruption in Suffolk County politics, including in the selection of judges.

The lawyers have said Walsh has no knowledge of any corruption, and any actions he has taken were traditional political practices that are legal.

The federal case did not originate in Walsh's political role but out of his role at the jail.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt set June 19 for the next hearing.

Latest Long Island News