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A dubious defense for Suffolk party boss Edward Walsh

Edward Walsh is escorted out of the FBI

Edward Walsh is escorted out of the FBI field office in Melville in handcuffs early Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. Credit: Ed Betz

Suffolk County Conservative Party boss Edward Walsh has a curious defense to the federal criminal complaint that he stole $80,000 of taxpayer money by falsely claiming he was at his job as a lieutenant in the sheriff's department when he was really on a golf course, at a casino or making political deals.

His explanation: I didn't hide anything. Everyone knows I'm a connected power player with a no-show patronage job.

The simple interpretation is that his defense team needs to get creative, because time-card fraud cases are fairly open and shut: You certified you were on the job, but investigators have solid proof you weren't.

The scary interpretation is that Walsh and his supporters actually believe their claim that no-show jobs are part of how the patronage system works and federal prosecutors are just criminalizing standard political behavior. That's outrageous. Walsh has a civil service job. He is required to perform it to earn a salary and pension paid by taxpayers. No one is untouchable because of who he knows or helped elect to public office, especially judges. If the prosecution sends only this message, it will be a valuable one.

But what else might be going on? Although a grand jury is collecting evidence, federal prosecutors arrested Walsh on an FBI complaint full of allegations about how he abused his position. That's likely to mean that he hasn't agreed to cooperate. Prosecutors have 60 days to indict Walsh if they can't persuade him to work with them in their larger corruption probe. And Walsh has to figure out what's the best route to keep his lucrative pension, which hasn't yet vested.

What's happened so far surely has demolished Walsh's bravura that he is too powerful for anything to happen to him.