Claiming that the Southeast Queens community is “under attack,” a group of politically active clergy is leading a rally in support of four area residents recently charged in connection with the alleged theft of roughly $30,000 from a charity.
Patricia Savage, an aide to state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), and attorney Lynn Smith were indicted by the state attorney general in December for allegedly stealing the money. Roger Scotland, former president of the Southern Queens Park Association, and David Gantt, a city housing employee, were charged with allegedly covering up the crime by falsifying records.
The nonprofit that the state alleges the money was taken from was one that Huntley — who was not charged with anything — has provided with discretionary funds.
But members of Southeast Queens Clergy for Political Awareness, an arm of Clergy United for Community Empowerment, say it’s all a witch hunt. Prior state and federal investigations have probed various Jamaica-area politicians for alleged misuse of funds provided to nonprofit groups, as well as the political connections that critics say initially led former Gov. David Paterson to pick an area organization to run the casino at Aqueduct Race Track, but none have yielded any charges yet.
Bishop Charles Norris, the SQCPA president, sees a pattern.
“Our community has been under attack for some time now, but to implicate people who have committed their professional careers to serve our community is unacceptable,” Norris said in a prepared statement. “It is very important that we come together and let the attorney general know we will not stand by and allow his office to criminalize these people.”
To do that, SQCPA will be taking a bus to Nassau Supreme Court in Mineola, where a hearing on the case is scheduled, to rally for the defendants on Feb. 4. It will leave from Mount Olivet Baptist Church, located at 202-03 Hollis Ave. in Hollis, at 8 a.m. Anyone interested in reserving a seat should call (718) 297-0720.
Asked through a spokeswoman how he knows the defendants are not guilty, Norris said he knows they are upstanding people who do good work for the community and that he does not believe the attorney general has concrete evidence against them.