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Queens Chronicle

Huntley indicted on corruption charges

A felony conviction would result in her automatic removal from office

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Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012 10:30 am

State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) was led into a Nassau police precinct wearing handcuffs Monday, after turning herself in to state investigators at the county DA’s office on corruption charges.

The lawmaker is accused of funneling public money to a bogus charity called the Parent Workshop that she founded with her niece and an aide, and then helping falsify a document to cover the tracks of the do-nothing nonprofit.

Huntley announced Saturday at an emergency press conference outside her Jamaica home that she would be surrendering to state investigators.

“I just wanted to say to my constituents that I am going to be arrested on Monday,” Huntley told the crowd. “I will turn myself in.”

Huntley is charged with tampering with physical evidence and falsifying business records in the first degree, according to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Each of those felonies carries a maximum sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison. She also faces a misdemeanor charge of conspiracy in the fifth degree. Under the New York State Public Officers Law, conviction on a felony would result in Huntley’s automatic removal from office.

“I’m not going to give you what my client’s reaction was,” Huntley’s attorney, Sally Butler, said in response to a question at the Saturday press conference. “I think that’s for us to deal with once we get to court because she does want her day in court. She wants it, she’s going to get it.”

According to the indictment, Huntley’s niece, Lynn Smith, and an aide, Patricia Savage, submitted fraudulent documents to the state in order to get $29,950 of the lawmaker’s member item money, which they allegedly kept for themselves instead of providing the promised programs.

Savage and Smith have each been charged with multiple felony counts of third-degree grand larceny and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. The maximum sentence for one count of the former is 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.

Huntley allegedly conspired with defendant David Gantt to create and submit false evidence in an attempt to convince investigators that the Parent Workshop had conducted meetings and outreach for parents on the workings of the city public school system, and that Gantt had served as a paid consultant in furtherance of that work.

The phony documents allegedly included a handwritten letter drafted by Huntley posing as a backdated document from the Southern Queens Park Association, a separate borough nonprofit, confirming the services rendered by the Parents Workshop.

Gantt is charged with four counts of tampering with physical evidence, four counts of falsifying business records in the first degree and one count of conspiracy in the fifth degree.

Huntley, a six-year incumbent, is facing a tough primary challenge from City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) and activist Gian Jones of Rockaway. Despite being arrested Monday, Huntley told reporters she is staying in the race and will win.

The lawmaker declined to comment about the charges, the upcoming primary or Sanders’ request that she step down, when reached by phone Wednesday morning.

Huntley was released on her own recognizance, according to Michelle Duffy, a spokeswoman for the AG. The lawmaker’s attorney and those representing the state are scheduled to have a conference on Sept. 14. It is at that closed meeting, which Huntley does not have to attend, Duffy said, that the next court date will be set.

“Falsifying documents, conspiracy and deliberately tampering with an open investigation are serious crimes,” Schneiderman said in a prepared statement. “The individuals who schemed to profit at the taxpayers’ expense and cover it up will be held accountable.”

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