Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) on Wednesday accused state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of malicious prosecution, and said the AG’s office has placed him and others in danger by leaking false information that the councilmember wore a wire to aid investigations of other elected officials.
Wills, speaking at Maranatha Baptist Church in Queens Village with his lawyers, referred to a May 11 article in the New York Post, in which the paper quoted “very high sources” saying that Wills had worn a wire.
“I told this reporter that this was absolutely untrue,” Wills said, reading from a prepared statement.
“The Attorney General’s Office has maliciously put out misinformation to tarnish my name, my reputation, and has put my safety and others’ in jeopardy by saying I wore a wire,” Wills said, adding that people’s lives have been endangered by the alleged leak.
“If the attorney general is not going to take the responsibility for putting the information out there, then at the very least his office should have the decency to set the record straight,” Wills said. “I did not wear a wire, I would not wear a wire and if Mr. Schneiderman’s office has any proof that I did, I call on him to release it immediately.”
Wills was arrested along with Jelani Mills, a relative, on May 7 on a 12-count indictment charging him with larceny and falsifying business records, among other charges.
His arrest stemmed from allegations that he stole money from a state grant intended to help his former nonprofit organization called NY 4 Life. Other allegations include misdirecting city-generated matching campaign funds for personal use.
In his statement, Wills said Schneiderman’s office asked him to wear a wire “on several occasions” and that he told them no each time.
He said that after the grand jury convened in his own case, the AG’s office offered to disband the grand jury and dismiss the pending indictment if Wills would do a “Nelson Castro,” referring to the former Democratic Bronx assemblyman who recorded incriminating information on former Bronx Assemblyman Eric Stevenson.
“Because I refused again, the attorney general proceeded with his side of the story,” he said.
Wills was surrounded at the podium by easels bearing images and news clippings from several civic and social programs, many for single parents, dating back to 2008.
“All sponsored by what the attorney general calls a sham charity,” he said.
Schneiderman’s office was unimpressed.
“The people of New York expect and deserve a government that serves their interests and fights to ensure there is one set of rules for everyone, which is why Attorney General Schneiderman has prosecuted more than 40 individuals in corruption cases,” said a statement from the AG’s office. “He is committed to rooting out public corruption wherever it exists and will follow the evidence wherever it leads.”
Steve Zissou, Wills’ lead attorney, said the councilman had made an accounting to Schneiderman’s investigators for just about all of the $33,000 state grant “within a few hundred dollars.”
His response on the campaign funds was different.
“We’re not going to argue that here,” he said. “We’re going to argue that in court.”
He said that Wills has cooperated completely with all parts of the investigation pertaining to himself.
Attorney Sally Butler, who also represented former state Sen. Shirley Huntley of Jamaica in the corruption case that sent Huntley to prison, believes that Huntley, Wills and potentially others are targets of a vendetta from an attorney general up for re-election.
“This area controls a lot of votes, Butler said. “And there are a lot of black leaders here who do not necessarily support his re-election.”