On Sept. 12, David Rosen, the former CEO of the firm that runs Jamaica and Flushing hospitals, became the second man convicted in federal court on charges stemming from the alleged bribery or attempted bribery of three members of the New York State Legislature.
And legal experts told the Queens Chronicle that the five remaining defendants could be in precarious positions when their trials begin.
Assemblyman William Boyland (D-Brooklyn) will go on trial Nov. 1, and state Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn), Kruger family friend Michael Turano, lobbyist Richard Lipsky and Dr. Robert Aquino, the former owner of Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills, who will go on trial Jan. 17.
Rosen, formerly of MediSys, is facing up to 70 years in jail when he is sentenced.
The late former Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio died in prison in January, less than a year into his six-year sentence for accepting illegal payments from companies, including MediSys, in return for favorable treatment in Albany.
James Cohen teaches criminal law at Fordham University Law School and practices criminal defense in federal court.
He said Rosen’s conviction could turn up the heat on the remaining defendants, particularly if he seeks some sort of deal to lessen his own sentence.
“If a person has been convicted and someone else is standing trial there could be a race to the prosecutor’s office,” Cohen said. “If I’m out there and I’ve done something illegal, I might want to get in before someone else has a chance to tell on me.”
Cohen said depending on how strong the government thinks its case is, it might accept or try to cultivate testimony against those it considers the biggest fish.
He said prosecutors could be in a particularly strong position to pressure an elected official to plead with the threat of new testimony, or to ignore any overtures whatsoever if any defendant has a change of heart.
“The prosecution can do both,” Cohen said. “Tell that official that if he doesn’t plead he’s going off a cliff.”
Jeffrey Meyer, a former federal prosecutor, served as assistant U.S. attorney for the Connecticut District and was the office’s appellate chief from 2000 to 2004. He teaches at Quinnipiac University Law School in Connecticut.
He said Rosen’s conviction would likely have little bearing on the remaining defendants, but that Southern District U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office is likely holding most of the cards.
“In federal court a previous conviction is inadmissible,” he said. “The government has to try the new cases on their own merits, independent of what’s happened to anybody else. That said, if the government is short of evidence, he may be positioned to offer testimony for cooperative benefits.”
Meyer said, however, that such a witness always is subject to impeachment by defense attorneys.
As for Kruger, Aquino or anyone else wanting to cut a deal in the wake of Rosen’s conviction, Meyer said prosecutors are unlikely to play ball at this point.
“The time for racing to the prosecutor is over,” he said. “They were charged months ago. They’ve had lawyers for months and the trials are starting in a matter of weeks. The window hasn’t closed, but any defense lawyer worth his salt will tell a client who is looking to cooperate to do so from the get-go, before he’s charged.”
Meyer also said the government probably does not need to play one defendant off of another.
“Federal prosecutors won’t charge someone unless they feel they have a very strong case,” he said. “There’s no Las Vegas system of charge them and see if it sticks. And in many cases it’s easier for the government to try cases together because that makes it harder for one defendant to point the finger at another, particulatly in a conspiracy case.”
Kruger, Lipsky, Aquino and Boyland are facing conspiracy charges.
Meyer also said any testimony that is accepted is not based on how prominent a defendant is, but on each defendant’s individual actions.
“Equal justice under the law,” he said.
Boyland stands accused of assisting MediSys in return for a no-show job that paid $35,000 a year.
Kruger is accused of accepting bribes from Rosen and Aquino through shell companies in exchange for his assistance on their behalf.
Aquino is accused of paying $60,000 to Kruger through a shell company.
Parkway closed in 2009, in part, Aquino has claimed, because he was being shaken down by Seminerio but refused to pay so-called “consulting fees” to the assemblyman.
Queens resident John Krall is heading an effort to reopen Parkway under a new name and new ownership.
Krall has said his group has the private financing available to reopen the doors. They are embroiled in a dispute with state health officials over a charter.
Krall believes the hospital can reopen under the old charter, while state officials are demanding a new certificate of need review.