Mayor Michael Bloomberg is no victim in the fraud case against his former campaign consultant, but is using the trial to hide his own campaign misdeeds, the defense argued Monday during opening statements in Manhattan.
John Haggerty, 42, who worked for the mayor's 2009 re-election campaign, is accused of convincing the mayor to give $1.2 million to the state Independence Party for a poll-watching initiative, then pocketing the majority of the dough to buy his late father’s house.
Haggerty's attorney, however, argued that he rightfully earned that money, and that Bloomberg is using Haggerty to cover up campaign fraud by Hizzoner. They contend that in telling the party how to use the money, which was classified as a donation, Bloomberg committed fraud.
"They needed a scapegoat so that Michael Bloomberg and members of his inner circle were not asked tough questions about violating campaign finance laws and maybe even being accused of crimes," Haggerty's attorney Raymond Costello told jurors.
A Bloomberg spokesman Monday said that the mayor did not do anything wrong.
"After he stole this money and was confronted by those who trusted him, [Haggerty] tried to cover it up with lies and phony checks," Assistant District Attorney Brian Weinberg argued.
Former Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey testified Monday that he approved the donation based on Haggerty’s proposal and that he believed the money would be used tohire poll-watchers who would ensure that voters encountered no problems.
Bloomberg is expected to testify, as well as other top administration officials.
Haggerty, who is charged with grand larceny, money laundering and falsifying business records, faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.