A Going-Away Gift From Russell Harding

Ex-Rudy aide: I lied about SUV

Less than 24 hours after Rudy Giuliani was hailed as the toast of the Republican convention, one of his former top aides appeared in federal court in Manhattan to plead guilty to lying to a grand jury.

Richard Roberts—a Giuliani stalwart through most of the ex-mayor's two terms in office, serving as special adviser, housing commissioner, and chairman of the Health and Hospitals Corporation—admitted that he lied when questioned about his use of a new $38,000 SUV given to him after he left government. He faces up to five years in prison.

The car was a gift from Russell Harding, another former Giuliani aide, who is currently facing federal charges for embezzling more than $250,000 from the city and destroying records of his expenditures. Harding, the son of Giuliani's political mentor, former Liberal Party boss Ray Harding, served as president of the Housing Development Corporation, of which Roberts was chairman of the board. As the Voice reported last year, Harding bought the deluxe Chevy Tahoe with agency funds and gave it to Roberts as a going-away present in the summer of 2000.

In the federal complaint, prosecutors state that Roberts lied when he told prosecutors and the grand jury that he only used the auto for official business. Roberts, 40, the son-in-law of influential Washington lobbyist Vernon Jordan, refused to answer questions after his hearing last Tuesday. His lawyers declined comment. A spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg, who retained Roberts as hospitals chief until his resignation last year, said: "He clearly lied, and he pled to that. I think he summed up the case for himself."

 
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