Brooklyn Assemb. William Boyland's former chief of staff testified Thursday that she helped him carry out a scheme to collect money for favors to an agent posing as a carnival promoter.
"I accepted bribes and I helped my former boss receive bribes," the former aide, Ryan Hermon, told jurors in her first day on the stand at Boyland's corruption trial in Brooklyn federal court.
Hermon pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery and extortion last year and agreed to testify against Boyland, 43, who is charged with bribe taking, using state money he steered to a local nonprofit for campaign purposes, and claiming bogus travel expenses.
In a matter-of-fact tone, Hermon, 35, described herself as a Long Island-raised real estate broker who engaged in several mortgage fraud schemes, lost money and was being pursued by the IRS when she was hired as Boyland's top aide in 2008 on the recommendation of a mutual friend. He put her on the state payroll, she said, after taking her to a weekend legislative conference in Albany. The judge has ruled questions about the personal relationship between the two off limits.
Referring to Boyland in her testimony as "the member," she said that in addition to running his staff, she had to help him with personal financial matters such as a mortgage modification and oversee a campaign account that paid personal expenses and often dipped into the red.
"The member was a big spender, so a lot of the time he ran out of money, overspent on things," she testified. "I didn't think he managed his money well."
Hermon, heard earlier in the trial on tape telling an undercover FBI agent posing as a shady businessman that bribes made her "hot," did not give details of the bribe scheme in her first day on the stand. She did, however, testify that from her first days as a staffer, Boyland gave special treatment to a local nonprofit running several senior centers in his Brownsville district -- the group he allegedly steered state money into, and used to help his campaign.
Hermon said an Albany staffer told her there was "something funny" about the support the group got, and she soon surmised that the special treatment was because Boyland -- whose family has held the seat for 40 years -- wanted to make sure he kept old-timers in his corner. "They're seen as prime voters," she said.