The Art of the Shakedown

Velella ducks a trial—and a courtroom lesson in business as usual in the Pataki era

The trial would also have included other examples which fell below the indictment threshold, but which clearly demonstrated the father-son tag team approach to politics and business. Assistant District Attorney Eric Seidel had already told the court that his team intended to present what are called "un-alleged overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy."

One such act was a series of calls that Senator Velella made to Timothy Carey, the president of the Battery Park City Authority, on behalf of Manny Gonzalez's son Greg, who wanted to operate parking garages there. Even that wasn't free. Manny Gonzalez was heard on tape griping to the bribe-giving contractor that "my son has to pay [the Velellas] like you pay them."

Another act was the discussion regarding the liquor license for Trump's golf club. Records show Donald Trump himself tried to call Guy Velella on February 10, 2000. He had his secretary leave Diamond's name and number, and when the senator and the Trump aide spoke the next day, Diamond informed him that Roy Goodman, the former Manhattan GOP state senator, had suggested to Trump that he contact Velella. "You were highly recommended up the chain for purposes of securing a liquor license," said Diamond.

Senator Velella dutifully explained that he was barred by law from appearing personally before the State Liquor Authority, but his dad would handle that part. But Velella assured Diamond that Goodman was correct about his influence. "Roy is right," said the senator. "We probably have the best hook down there, in terms of getting things done."

In his 30-year career, Senator Velella had "hooks" throughout government, and his aggressive use of them was notorious. But nothing seemed to faze top city and state officials. Even after his indictment, Pataki sought Velella's aid in his re-election campaign, and Mayor Bloomberg went out of his way to appear last September at a Velella fundraiser.

The guilty plea ends one phase in Guy Velella's political life, but it may also be the beginning of a new one. He has told friends he wants to begin serving his time as soon as possible and he hopes to be out within eight months. Although he will no longer be allowed to practice law, there is nothing to stop him from serving as a high-priced consultant and lobbyist, a former lawbreaker pushing many of the same buttons from the outside that he so deftly pushed from the inside as lawmaker. In a conversation, captured on the bug in Manny Gonzalez's car, Vincent Velella presciently noted that his son could make a lot more money that way.

"Damn being a senator," said the elder Velella on a November 1999 tape. "You know what kind of money he could be making with [an inaudible name] and everybody else?"

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