The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan on Monday affirmed the conviction of former State Senate Democratic leader John Sampson for obstruction of justice and other charges, and opened the door to prosecutors reinstating embezzlement charges against him.
Sampson, 53, of Brooklyn, is serving a five-year sentence for efforts he made to cover up the embezzlement of $188,000 in surplus funds he held as court-appointed referee on two foreclosure sales and allegedly used to underwrite a failed campaign for district attorney in Brooklyn.
Prior to Sampson's 2015 trial, U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry had dismissed counts relating to the underlying embezzlement, ruling that it was completed by 2002, outside the 5-year statute of limitations when he was indicted in 2013.
But the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, saying the charges should have gone to trial for a jury to decide because there was evidence that he continued to convert some of the money to his own use as recently as 2008.
“We do not know if the government will be able to prove that Sampson completed the alleged embezzlements within the statute of limitations,” the court said. “But that fact alone is not enough to mandate dismissal of Sampson’s embezzlement counts, for “we simply cannot approve dismissal of an indictment on the basis of predictions as to what the trial evidence will be.”
A spokesman for Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said the office was “reviewing the decision” and had no immediate comment on whether prosecutors will seek a new trial of Sampson on the embezzlement charges.
Sampson was elected to the Senate in 1996, and served until his conviction in 2015.
He was charged with trying to arrange a loan from Edul Ahmad, a crooked mortgage broker, to cover up the embezzlement, encouraging Ahmad — who became a government informant — to lie, and then recruiting a childhood friend, an investigator in the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s office, to leak information about the federal probe.
In a mixed verdict at trial, jurors convicted him of obstruction of justice and two counts of lying to the FBI but acquitted him of witness and evidence tampering, concealing records and one count of lying to the FBI.
He was sentenced in 2017 to five years in prison. He is currently at a medium-security federal prison facility in Fairton, New Jersey, with a scheduled release date of Sept. 23, 2021.