Brooklyn Assemb. William Boyland Jr. took intended bribes from FBI undercover agents but was just scamming them and never did any favors in return, his defense lawyer told jurors as the latest Albany corruption trial began Monday in federal court in Brooklyn.
"He was playing the players," said lawyer Nancy Ennis. "If that is a crime, it's not one of the crimes charged here."
Boyland, 43, is charged with taking more than $7,000 in bribes and soliciting $250,000 more to help with carnival permits and a real estate deal. He is also accused of diverting money from a nonprofit and filing bogus claims for legislative travel expenses.
The scion of a powerful political family in one of Brooklyn's poorest neighborhoods, Boyland was acquitted on unrelated corruption charges in Manhattan in 2011. His trial marks the latest in a string of cases that have raised concern about ethics in the Capitol.
Prosecutor Robert Capers said the government would call as witnesses a carnival promoter who became an informer, two FBI agents who posed as corrupt businessmen, and Boyland's former top aide Ryan Hermon, who pleaded guilty to six counts of bribery, extortion and conspiracy as part of the carnival scheme and is cooperating.
He also told jurors they would hear and see Boyland on secretly taped audio and video recordings bragging that he had "control" of everything that happened in Brownsville, and telling the undercover agents that he used a "bagman" to avoid getting caught.
"This is a case about money and power and how the defendant sold that power and abused that power to get money," Capers said in his opening argument.
But Ennis said that while Boyland took money and asked for more to help with the carnival and the real estate deals, he was just paying "lip service" to their schemes and stringing them along to raise money for his defense in the 2011 Manhattan case.
"Mr. Boyland thought he was taking money from thieves," she said. "Mr. Boyland may have 'yessed' the FBI agents. . . but he never had an intention of doing what these men wanted."
Ennis also said that the FBI started out targeting a city councilman from Boyland's neighborhood, but then latched on to him as a bigger target and spent more than a year wining and dining him to try to lure him into a quid pro quo.
"They chased William Boyland like Ahab chased Moby Dick," she said.
Boyland faces a maximum sentence of more than 100 years in prison on the 21-count indictment. U.S. District Judge Sandra Townes released the jury after opening statements Monday due to the weather. Testimony is scheduled to begin this morning.