By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Late Monday afternoon, former Giuliani administration aide Luke Cusack stood in front of Judge Sidney Stein in Manhattan federal court to plead guilty to a broad scheme to embezzle funds with his former boss, Russell Harding.
Speaking in a barely audible voice in an almost empty courtroom, Cusack, 32, admitted that from the time he went to work as Harding's deputy at the city's Housing Development Corporation in 1998 right up until his dismissal in February 2002, he had spent funds "for personal use," including trips he took with Harding to Hong Kong, Vancouver, and Washington, D.C.
Cusack also admitted that he went along with a Harding scheme to hide expense records that were being sought under the Freedom of Information Law by The Village Voice at the time. Cusack acknowledged that after the records request was received, he put Harding's expenses on his own corporate credit card and took other unspecified steps to conceal expense data. He faces up to 10 years in prison on the charges.
"The Lush Life of a Rudy Appointee: How a Politically Tied Aide Spent $250,000 on Food, Fun, and Travel"
"Harding's Hustle: Bonuses, Bargains, and Strip Clubs at the Housing Development Corporation"
"Low-Class Act: Russell Harding on Blacks, the Poor, and the Clintons"
"Bonus Baby: A Hefty Something Extra in Russell Harding's Last Paycheck"
"Harding's Conflict of Interest: After Pledging to Steer Clear of Dad's Law Firm, Son Aided a Client"
"Scandal Repair: As Harding Probe Continues, Cleanup Costs Grow"
"Russell Harding's Vanity Fair: 'Voice' Trail Led to Charges"
"The Harding Rules: In Scandal's Wake, New Safeguards at Housing Agency"
"The Heart of the Matter: A Former Internet Pen Pal's Mixed Feelings About Russell Harding "
Federal officials refused to comment on Cusack's status, but sources familiar with the case said that Cusack has been cooperating for months against Harding, who was charged March 17 with six counts of fraud and possession of child pornography. Cusack's cooperation could also be crucial in the ongoing city-federal probe into other ex-Giuliani administration aides who allegedly received free trips from Harding, the son of Liberal Party leader and Giuliani adviser Raymond Harding.
Russell Harding's attorney, Gerald Shargel, said Cusack's guilty plea "has no impact on [Harding's] case whatsoever."