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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Another NY Attorney's Guilt Shows Widespread Corruption in Legal Community

Another Politician Falls, and Earth Barely Shakes
The New York Times by Peter Applebome - December 9, 2010

CARMEL, N.Y. - About four years ago an unsigned postcard arrived at the Albany bureau of The New York Times. Written in permanent marker on an unlined notecard were the words “Ask about Leibell,” with the name underlined. In truth, even absent the heads-up, if you wanted to ask almost anything about Putnam County, the postcard-size stretch of subdivisions, reservoirs, steep slopes and small towns squeezed between the suburbs of Westchester County and the rural precincts of Dutchess County, you would probably have found some reasons to ask about Vincent L. Leibell III. Mr. Leibell, 64, son of a mob-busting New York City prosecutor, a Republican state legislator for 28 years, guiding hand behind powerful government-supported, nonprofit foundations that brought millions of dollars into the county and recently elected county executive, was the most powerful person in Putnam. So in lots of ways, the suggestion to “Ask about Leibell” came with the turf.

But when Mr. Leibell toppled to earth this week, yet another crooked New York pol pleading guilty to obstruction of justice and tax charges, what’s most striking is how nonseismic it felt. A few people expressed surprise, but they must not have been paying attention after an F.B.I. investigation that became an issue in his campaign for county executive, his sudden decision to quit the State Senate a month early and his announcement that he would not assume the county executive job. You might have expected his allies in this staunchly Republican county with 100,000 residents to offer profoundly mixed expressions of betrayal and recognition. But there is no hate like intraparty hate, and Putnam County Republicans of various stripes have been at one another’s throats publicly for years. (Hence, one assumes, that postcard.) There were statements of personal regret for him and his family, some that rang true, some that didn’t. But when the king goes down, the king goes down. “We’ll have to purge the county of a lot of his stooges,” Anthony Scannapieco, the Putnam Republican election commissioner, told The Journal News. “It’s a little turmoil, but I think we’ll be fine in the long run.” As for shaking up the political landscape in the only downstate county besides Staten Island to support John McCain, that has already happened with the rise of Tea Party types like Greg Ball, the ambitious and polarizing former Air Force officer who will succeed Mr. Leibell in the Senate. It’s a statement on how Republican Putnam is, that any vacuum is already being filled by the Tea Party from the right, not the Democrats from the left. Mr. Leibell, as might be expected, has many friends, fans and admirers, not least because at a time when railing against illegal immigration in a county that’s 93 percent white has been the fastest road to political prominence, he never played that card. But there is really only one political story, told from “The Last Hurrah,” to “All the King’s Men,” from Tammany Hall to Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada Jr. — too much power and too much temptation. Which is why the cynicism in this sparsely populated county, with its ancient courthouse and the historical marker noting the hanging there in 1844, was palpable long before Mr. Leibell’s fall. The same people keep getting elected — congressmen unless the political earth moves, Mr. Leibell for almost three decades, County Executive Robert J. Bondi for 20 years. It’s not because they’re beloved, but because they’re the ones with the juice. If you want to understand the Tea Party, this is one place to start. In the end, everything about Mr. Leibell is now being questioned: that $1.4 million mansion with the adjacent land declared parkland, the foundations with the extravagant legal bills that turned out to be paths toward kickbacks, the remarkably low land price he managed for the senior housing his foundation is planning, the kingmaker role now up for grabs. Few think he’ll be the only one implicated as prosecutions go forward. But the main taint isn’t here, where Mr. Leibell was recorded cooking up an alibi to obstruct the investigations with one of the lawyers he was accused of conspiring with. It’s 100 miles away in Albany, where he mastered the levers of power in the form of member items or legislative spending dedicated to nonprofit groups that members control like private bank vaults. “Someone, make it stop,” the New York Public Interest Research Group said after Mr. Leibell’s guilty plea in calling for a special session before the end of the year to pass ethics reform. But no one ever does, which is why we’ve heard this story before and will, no doubt, hear it again. E-mail:


Wake Up New York Times said...

I'd like to know why the New York Times doesn't do more about the rampant corruption in our legal community. It's disgraceful. What they hell are they doing, protecting the 'connected' people by not covering these important stories more prominently? FRONT PAGE, EVERY DAY, UNTIL ALL OF THESE BUMS ARE BEHIND BARS!

Anonymous said...

So, someone sent a card to the NYTs four years ago, which gave them the name of a corrupt politician, and they did nothing.

They did nothing despite the fact that it was well known that this guy was corrupt.

Clearly the NYTs along with every other publication out there has completely failed in doing their alleged job, which is to find news and report it.

This is why Wikileaks is so important. Right now they are the only organization which is finding the facts and the real story and reporting it.

Who needs the NYTs?

Anonymous said...

Ask about Tony Scarpino et al.

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