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NY State Sen. Shirley Huntley indicted in pork probe

New York State Sen. Shirley Huntley at the

New York State Sen. Shirley Huntley at the Nassau district attorney's office in Mineola. (Aug. 27, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

State Sen. Shirley Huntley was indicted Monday in the latest case involving a wide-ranging probe of pork-barrel grants distributed by legislators, often to nonprofit organizations they founded or which are run by relatives and friends.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was scheduled to detail the charges and his accusations against the fellow Democrat in an afternoon news conference.

Senate Democratic leader John Sampson is expected to strip Huntley of her stipend for serving as ranking minority party member of the Senate mental health committee. That $9,000 stipend, however, has already been paid for this year. Her $79,500 base salary isn't affected.

A legislator can be removed from office if convicted of a felony. As a senator, Schneiderman in 2010 led an investigation that took the rare step of expelling a senator, Democrat Hiram Monserrate, after a misdemeanor conviction for assaulting his girlfriend.

The 74-year-old Huntley hasn't responded to requests for comment since she announced Saturday that she expected to be charged Monday. Entering the courtroom Monday, she said she would use the indictment to prove her innocence.

She faces a tough Democratic primary in Queens on Sept. 13.

Huntley founded a nonprofit social service and education group, funded in part with state grants. Huntley has denied wrongdoing.

The case is the latest involving legislators and their private business dealings. Among the recent cases are:

Pedro Espada Jr. was convicted in July of misusing public funds meant to help poor patients at Bronx health clinics that he controlled. He was chosen by Democrats and Republicans to lucrative leadership posts including majority leader as he orchestrated a 2009 coup for control of the majority, briefly siding with Republicans.

—Longtime Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno faces a retrial on federal corruption charges next year. The retired 83-year-old Bruno was convicted on two counts of so-called honest services fraud, under a general theory he used his influence to make money in his sideline consulting business, depriving taxpayers of his honest services. An appeals court last year dismissed the convictions, citing a Supreme Court ruling in another case that prosecutors must show direct bribes or kickbacks.

—In April, Democrat Carl Kruger, the one-time chairman of powerful Senate Finance Committee, was sentenced to seven years in prison Thursday by a judge who said his multi-year bribery scheme struck "like daggers in the heart of honest government."

—In December 2010, former Republican Sen. Vincent Leibell of Putnam County admitted he filed false tax returns and tried to influence a grand jury investigating him on allegations of corruption, including kickbacks involving a nonprofit organization he founded.

—Former Republican state Sen. Nicholas Spano admitted in February that he underpaid his income taxes by $53,000. The judge said the public was "sick and tired of the powerful and fortunate not paying their fair share of taxes."

—Former Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, a Queens Democrat, pleaded guilty in 2009 to defrauding his Queens constituents by collecting $1 million in consulting fees by leveraging the influence of his state Assembly job. He died in 2011 in prison.

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