If published reports are right, state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and seven others were taped in former Sen. Shirley Huntley’s home either at the request of the FBI, or at Huntley’s recommendation to the bureau.
In an interview following Huntley’s sentencing to prison last week, Peralta said he is at a loss to explain why either would consider him a possible target for a corruption probe.
“I have no idea,” Peralta said. “I have engaged in no wrongdoing whatsoever. And once my name came out, my attorney reached out to the U.S. Attorney and was assured that I am not the target of an investigation.”
Peralta said he understands why people’s faith in government could be shaken, but said he has not gotten any fallout as he campaigns for the Democratic nomination for Queens borough president.
Huntley was sentenced to one year and one day in prison on May 9 in federal court in Brooklyn on a corruption-related charge.
Huntley, 74, pleaded guilty in February to wire fraud in connection with the embezzlement of nearly $88,000 from a phony nonprofit organization.
She faced up to two years in prison prior to her cooperation with federal authorities. It was revealed two weeks ago that her cooperation included working with the FBI to secretly tape conversations with eight people, including six sitting Democratic state senators.
Two of the senators, Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) and John Sampson (D-Brooklyn), have been arrested on federal charges, Sampson on May 6 and Smith last month.
Earlier this year Huntley received five years’ probation in exchange for a guilty plea to New York State charges as a result of the theft of nearly $30,000 from a separate nonprofit, one run by her niece and a former legislative aide.
Huntley’s attorney, Sally Butler, pleaded for mercy on her client’s behalf. U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein imposed a prison sentence, though it was lower than the federal guidelines. Following the sentencing, Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, expressed hope the prison term will send a clear message.
“The crux of this case has always been the defendant Shirley Huntley’s greed and self-interest,” Lynch said. “Promising to provide much-needed assistance to the parents of New York City public school children, she set up a nonprofit organization that received state funding. Instead of serving the parents, Huntley helped herself and her family to state funds.
“Shirley Huntley violated the public trust and betrayed her constituents by stealing public funds for her own benefit.”
In a statement sent to the Chronicle last week, state Sen. Ruth Hassel-Thompson (D-Bronx), who also was taped, said she was “perplexed” to learn her name was mentioned in a letter from Huntley’s attorney
“We met and spoke, in general, about matters including our health and our families,” she said. “At no time — past or present — did we discuss anything inappropriate.
Others taped by Huntley include Curtis Taylor, Smith’s former press aide; Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica); and state Sens. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn) and Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn).