Last week Efrain Gonzalez, Jr., State Senator from District 33 in the Bronx, waved away our reporter’s questions about Federal charges that he had misused state funds for personal purposes, saying only that he was sure he’d be found innocent. Just to be on the safe side, though, Gonzalez had earlier sought to have those charges dismissed, claiming that the Feds didn’t have standing to prosecute.
The indictment charges that Gonzalez, through member items to which he has access as a Senator, first funneled State money to the local Pathways for Youth non-profit. From there he allegedly redirected the funds, with the assistance of Pathways director Neil Berger, to another non-profit, the West Bronx Neighborhood Association — the office of which, the indictment states, “was nothing more than a room that adjoined Gonzalez’s District Office in the Bronx.” And from there, the indictment further alleges, Gonzalez withdrew the funds and spent them on his daughter’s college tuition, his mother-in-law’s house in the Dominican Republic, Yankees tickets, and such like. (A nice account of Gonzalez and his legal troubles by the Voice‘s Tom Robbins appears here.)
Pedro Espada, Jr., who is contending against Gonzalez for the Democratic State Senate nomination, and who recently survived a residency challenge, must be singing the praises of our judicial system this morning. (To further lighten his mood, the Citizens Union just endorsed him.)
Other lawmakers who make liberal use of member items may not be so cheerful: the Sun suggests that, as precedent, Pauley’s ruling leaves them open to similar Federal charges.