The Louima Prosecutor

Pataki and D'Amato's Pick Is Unqualified and Tainted

Three lawyers who represented Donohue—Paul Windels, Tom Puccio, and Leo Kayser—ran up combined bills of $256,877. The firm of Robinson, Gill, where both Ed Koch and Battery Park city chairman James Gill practice, collected $70,275, in part for representing Mucha. Rod Lankler was paid $102,634, including $25,000 by the state party, for representing fundraiser Cathy Blaney and other committee-connected individuals. Elkan Abramowitz ($95,856) and Matt Fishbein ($45,639) also were substantial winners in the legal sweepstakes.

A state board of elections spokesman said he "doesn't think there's a legal problem" with such expenditures, but no campaign committee in New York has ever spent so lavishly to defend itself from a criminal probe. In addition, though 1998 was the most active year in the investigation, the committee delayed paying most of the legal bills until after the governor's November re-election, spending $120,537 that December alone. If the committee failed to report expenses it knowingly incurred prior to the election, it may have committed a state misdemeanor violation.

While state parole board chair Brion Travis, community affairs director Jeff Wiesenfeld, and other high-level officials were implicated in wrongdoing but not prosecuted, Mauskopf's office never made any ethics referrals or issued any report about their apparent misconduct. Instead, Travis, who was also named as an unindicted co-conspirator by federal prosecutors, remains in his key position. It is traditionally an IG's job to sanction a public official whose improprieties do not rise to the level of a criminal charge. A Mauskopf takeover of the same federal office whose evidence of misconduct she ignored is widely seen by veterans as punishment for its role in the most serious corruption case of the Pataki era.

Instead of viewing the prosecutorial choice in his own home district as a decision he does not have to balance against nominations his subcommittee reviews across the country, Schumer appears to be leaning toward giving Pataki and Bush what they want. He publicly cites the unsurprising support of mentor Morgenthau for Mauskopf as a rationale and even appointed Morgy's favorite defense counsel, Steve Kaufman, to his panel. (Kaufman also represented a Pataki aide implicated in the parole board probe.) Merit may well take a backseat to a Schumer desire to appear nonpartisan, even when faced with so partisan a nominee.

Research assistance: Martine Guerrier, Jess Wisloski, Lauren Johnston, Peter G.H. Madsen

Related Articles in This Issue:

"The Louima Decision: Is Punishment Possible for Police Brutality?" by Jill Nelson

"Reversal of Misfortune: The Wrong Charges, the Right Decision" by Alan M. Dershowitz

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