Judge Rejects Dismissing Indictment Against Senator
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A federal judge has paved the way for a corruption trial against a senior state senator, Efrain Gonzalez Jr., by rejecting a call to dismiss his indictment.
In a memorandum issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Pauley called arguments for dismissal “without merit” and “all rejected.”
As a result of the decision, the U.S attorney for Manhattan, Michael Garcia, can now also pursue a broad investigation into so-called member items — expenditures of state and city funds on organizations favored by individual state legislators and City Council members.
If the case against Mr. Gonzalez and his co-defendants had been dismissed, that investigation could have been slowed, in that the movement for dismissal rested largely on the argument that there are limits on the federal government’s jurisdiction to prosecute alleged misappropriation of state funds.
Mr. Garcia’s office will now pursue its charge that Mr. Gonzalez — a Democrat of the Bronx — and three co-defendants appropriated state funds for their own use.
The federal government has charged Mr. Gonzalez with spending more than $400,000 in state money for personal uses, such as paying college tuition for his daughter, paying off his credit card bills, and hiring a consultant to advise a cigar company he owns.
According to the U.S. attorney’s brief, filed in 2006, Mr. Gonzalez directed the state Legislature to allocate the money to a nonprofit organization called Pathways for Youth, run by one of Mr. Gonzalez’s co-defendants, Neil Berger. Mr. Berger allegedly funneled that money into another nonprofit, the West Bronx Neighborhood Association, which Mr. Gonzalez is alleged to have used as a personal bank.
“We obviously have to honor the judge’s decision,” Mr. Gonzalez’s lawyer, Murray Richman, said in an interview. He said the rejection of the dismissal will not change his argument for his client’s innocence.