The Scandal That Will Not Die

How Pataki Protects the People Who Fix the Parole Board

In addition to the $577,567 paid directly to Donahue since 1993, Friends of Pataki paid $257,378 to Tom Puccio, Leo Kayser, and Paul Windels to represent Donahue in this case, as well as another $328,961 to Rod Lankler and others to represent the governor's campaign. Donahue testified that a month or so before he appeared as a Yoo witness, he was shifted onto the payroll of Pataki's outside fundraising consulting firm, Cathy Blaney & Associates, rather than being paid directly by the campaign. That makes it impossible to determine just what Donahue was making when he took the stand in 2000—but he was being paid as a fundraiser for the governor and for Senate candidate Rick Lazio, who also used the Blaney firm. Blaney was paid a combined $841,163 by the two campaigns that year, and $1,136,027 since, with Donahue still on her tab.

Friedberg recounted how Donahue's aide, Julie Pyun, told him that she'd had dinner with one of the families, that they'd pressed her to get Donahue to give them information about their son's release, and that Donahue said he'd let them know. "Right there you know that Patrick Donahue is involved in the conspiracy," said Friedberg. "He's telling her I already know about the fact that these people are looking for the prison releases and it is because he and Mr. Yoo are part of the conspiracy to spring these kids."

The family Donahue was reassuring were the Jhangs—whose son had been convicted with John Kim and who had donated $23,000 to Pataki, meeting with Donahue several times. The day John Jhang delivered $20,000 in checks to Yoo and Donahue, he heard Yoo mention "work release" to Donahue and Donahue reply "No problem." The Jhangs were so upset about this broken promise that they went to the police and ultimately the feds, so unconcerned about their own culpability that they didn't even get immunity until shortly before the trial began.

When Donahue took the stand, prosecutor Margaret Giordano started by asking him if he understood that he'd been "a target of the investigation for several years now" and he said, "Yes ma'am." He said the same when asked if he understood that, as he sat there that day, he was still "a target of the investigation into federal bribery." In a sidebar talk with the judge, Yoo's attorney objected to the use of the word target, saying it suggests "the government's belief in the guilt" of Yoo's prime witness, but the judge refused to make any mitigating comment to the jury. In her rebuttal summation and her Donahue questioning, Giordano also offered another motive for him to lie: "his fear of losing his job" at the Pataki committee.

Even Donahue concedes he wrote and called officials of the Pataki administration about the cases. He insists he was simply seeking "status reports" about the release dates, even though he had the dates, provided by Yoo, before he made the government contacts. Pataki's decision to retain Donahue demonstrates the governor's belief that it is OK for a campaign fundraiser to make inquiries at the highest levels of his administration on behalf of donors, even ones as odious as these. Like the decision to keep Travis on parole, the retention of Donahue sets the ethical bar so low that no conduct, even when acknowledged, merits any form of even temporary reproach.

Pataki named Jeff Wiesenfeld to the board of City University and the United Nations Development Corporation, and Grace Koh's state salary has nearly doubled since both were implicated in this scandal. Though the government assailed their truthfulness at the trial, the governor's office put through $66,587 in special state payments for their lawyer, Andy Lawler, whose billings indicated constant contacts with what he referred to as the "joint defense counsel," including the lawyers paid for by the campaign and state.

Yoo's lawyer taunted the government during the trial about why Wiesenfeld, the governor's executive assistant, who left to take a job with a major investment banking house, and Koh, who worked under Wiesenfeld and is now a $70,000-a-year aide to the lieutenant governor, weren't called as witnesses. They were the key Community Affairs aides who, in response to extra-governmental inquiries from Yoo and Donahue, put pressure on parole officials, with Wiesenfeld writing a memo prosecutors called "outrageous" that told parole officials that young Kim had made a "stunning turn" from a gang life to a good life.

Giordano responded to the defense taunts in her summation: "Do you think the government would be calling office managers and secretaries who had minimal knowledge and minimal culpability if the real manipulators in the case—Grace Koh and Jeff Wiesenfeld—were going to get up on the stand and provide truthful information to you?" Noting that a postal inspector testified that these witnesses were "hostile" and that they "had to be subpoenaed to the grand jury because they wouldn't go voluntarily," Giordano said that the defense had subpoena power and chose not to use them either. "Maybe one liar self-destructing on the witness stand for the defense"—a reference to Donahue—"was enough for them."

In addition to paying the fees for Wiesenfeld and Koh's attorney Lawler, the governor's office also arranged for state payment for attorneys representing a host of others questioned in the case, totaling $122,026. Austin Campriello, whose firm Robinson, Silverman was paid $70,275 by the Pataki campaign, also collected $12,204 in state funds for representing Jim McGuire, the governor's counsel. The statute requires that lawyers be paid only "in connection with an appearance before a grand jury which returns no true bill against the employee," but McGuire's lawyer was paid even though he made no such appearance.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
New York Concert Tickets