Mayor Michael Bloomberg kept his pricklier side in check Monday when he took the stand in the grand larceny case against a former campaign adviser, even as the defense tried to disparage his credibility.
Bloomberg, known for having a short fuse at times when dealing with questions from reporters, was mostly cool under fire during the two-hour cross-examination from lawyer Raymond Castello, who is representing defendant John Haggerty.
Accused of swindling the mayor out of $1.1 million, the Republican political consultant is charged with grand larceny, money laundering and falsifying business records after he was hired by Bloomberg to run a poll-watching operation during the 2009 election. Prosecutors claim Haggerty, 42, pocketed most of the cash, including $600,000 to buy a house in Queens.
Castello tried to get under the mayor’s skin when he asked him about sending $1.1 million to the Independence Party to pay for poll watching.
“If you could answer my question, Mr. Bloomberg, I’d really appreciate it, instead of volunteering information,” Castello said.
One of the touchier exchanges came at the end of questioning, when Bloomberg looked visibly antsy. Castello brought up the August resignation of former Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who city officials said was leaving to take a private-sector job instead of giving the real reason for his departure: an arrest tied to a domestic dispute with his wife.
“You made a public statement that was untrue about his resignation,” Castello said.
“That is not true,” the mayor responded.
“Didn’t you say he was fired, because of the way he handled” the December snowstorm, Castello asked.
“You couldn’t be more wrong,” Bloomberg shot back.
The trial is offering a public glimpse into the inner-workings of Bloomberg’s last re-election campaign, which provided him a third term after he got the City Council to approve extending term limits.
The defense has suggested the mayor’s donation to the Independence Party – instead of paying Haggerty directly – was illegal under campaign finance laws.
Haggerty, who has denied the charges, is expected to take the stand later this month. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison for grand larceny.
NYC mayors caught up in courtroom dramas
-- Ed Koch appeared as a witness in a 1982 civil lawsuit over the firing of the city’s chief medical examiner.
-- Koch also testified in 1988 against Bess Myerson, a former Miss America and city cultural affairs commissioner, in her divorce-fixing conspiracy trial.
-- David Dinkins gave a deposition in 1993 for a lawsuit accusing him of purposely holding back cops during the 1991 Crown Heights riots.
-- Rudy Giuliani testified in U.S. District Court in 2003, after he left office, about his firing of three white city employees for wearing black face on a Labor Day parade float in 1998.