When New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was arrested last week on bribery and corruption charges — only a few months after assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver earned the same fate — it was more proof that Albany is a frigid, snow-blanketed cesspool of dirty dealing. It’s no secret that the state of New York is lavishly corrupt, impressively so, actually, and has been for generations.
Politico earlier this week offered an explanation of sorts, citing the long tradition of making decisions based on the whims of “three men in a room,” the governor and party leaders in the assembly and senate. The website also cited evidence that the distance between Albany and the state’s largest population center here in the city — where the media scrutiny is most intense — might be a contributing factor, too. Jon Stewart weighs in below:
Meanwhile, the lower Hudson Valley’s Journal News created a database of the most recent state lawmakers to face criminal charges. In that same spirit, we decided to highlight a few from our fair city (or close by) who have somehow managed to stay in public office despite their brushes with the law. Read on to see the alleged crooks, drunks, and stoners proudly serving the people in your own backyard.
Robert Rodriguez was nabbed for DWI in June of 2013, having been stopped after what cops said was erratic driving. The Democratic lawmaker was departing from an Albany restaurant when he was pulled over and found with “watery, bloodshot eyes and slow speech.” He is also still in office, representing the 68th District, in Harlem.
Bribery? Not so good. Misusing campaign funds? Also decidedly uncool. But any politician who gets arrested for smoking weed would normally get a pass as far as we’re concerned. Republican Steve Katz, a veterinarian by trade, was arrested in 2013 after he was pulled over for speeding and police found a “small bag” of reefer in the vehicle.
The only problem is that Katz seems to be one of those “do as I say and not as I do” types; he voted against legalizing medical marijuana in New York State before his arrest. He was also once arrested for disposing of a dead German shepherd in a Pennsylvania dumpster. Not even sure what to say about that.
Maybe he’s come around to see the error of his ways, though. After his arrest, he voted in favor of medical marijuana in the state, and also set out to raise money to invest in a California company selling the good shit out west. He eventually agreed to a plea deal with some community service on the pot charge. Today Katz continues to represent the genteel environs of Westchester, where there’s plenty of backyard space, if ya know what I mean.
Brooklyn Democrat John Sampson is currently facing two separate indictments related to corruption, and remains in office. The first charges came in May of 2013, when he was accused of stealing $400,000 from the sale of foreclosed homes. Then in 2014, he was indicted again for allegedly helping a liquor store — in which he owned a financial stake — resolve tax issues.
Federal wiretaps allegedly recorded him telling a staffer to help out with the scheme, and to cover his tracks. “Do it on your own cellphone,” Sampson reportedly told his aide, “and do it on your own time.” He’ll go to trial later this summer.
Look, we’ve all wanted to punch the New York Post in the throat at some point. Just the whole damn institution, like, right in the grille. But Democratic senator Kevin Parker was arrested for assault after he acted on that very common fantasy, attacking a Post photographer. Parker was photographed exiting his mother’s home in Flatbush. His own home was in danger of foreclosure at the time, and as an advocate for foreclosure reform, the Post thought he might have something to say. He was eventually convicted of criminal mischief, not the more serious assault charge. And since the Post technically counts as a news organization, we can’t forgive his attack on the freedom of the press, even if we really, really want to.
Karim Camara was a Brooklyn assemblyman in 2007 when he was arrested for DWI in Albany, doing 65 mph in a 35 zone. When he was pulled over he refused a breath test — as anyone with half a brain should — but was convicted nonetheless. Camara, who is also a longtime pastor, went on to serve until last month, when he resigned his post for a new, much better-paying job as the head of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s newly created Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services.