(Photo cred: Goldblatt & Associates, P.C.)
I was honored to spend some time today with the attorney representing the woman on the other side of this Rick Springfield deal. New developments yesterday led to the case being dismissed today. Listen below to hear my conversation with Kenneth Goldblatt.
Who investigates the investigators?
Who holds the attorney general accountable? What stays the vindictive and partisan hand of power?
Those are the questions asked by an astounded Rochester region as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announces that his office is not going to oppose the dropping of charges against Monroe County resident Robert Wiesner.
The husband of the county executive, a retired Rochester Police Department captain, and the object of an infamous perp walk to which reporters were given a personal, illegal invitation.
Wiesner’s wife – Republican County Executive Maggie Brooks – has been the target of years of investigation. She has been investigated by the Democrat district attorney, she has been investigated by the Democrat attorney general, she has been investigated by the Democrat Justice Department. She and her administration have been gone over with a fine-toothed comb.
And they’ve found nothing.
She has come out squeaky clean.
There have been a series of peripheral scandals, bottom feeders in the administration or political structure who have been caught behaving badly, but Brooks has largely come out looking like what she has claimed she is – a victim of bad actors, but a good steward who weeds out troublemakers as soon as she finds them.
Recent attention has focused on a couple of local development corporations, entities established, Brooks has said, to save the county money.
Week before last there was the handing down of a sealed indictment from a state grand jury. The day before it was to be unsealed, the office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent out an “off the record” e-mail to a variety or Rochester reporters. It disclosed the existence of the sealed indictment – a clear violation of New York law – and it described a time and place where the four high-profile targets of the indictment would be publicly displayed.
Specifically, a little bit after noon on Exchange Boulevard as the indictees would be walked from the attorney general’s office across the street to police headquarters.
It was the first time in anyone’s experience that such an attorney general’s perp walk had been performed, much less announced in a press release.
The indicted individuals were to surrender themselves at the attorney general’s office, be taken to police headquarters, and then be taken to court for the unsealing of the indictment.
It was a made-for-TV moment, and precisely on schedule out of the attorney general’s office came a phalanx of stern, suited men looking like they were providing security on a presidential detail. They were escorting a line of handcuffed men, also in suits, at a nice, easy pace, so as not to lose the cameras.
In the front of the line was Robert Wiesner.
The county executive’s husband.
Being perp walked into the headquarters of a police department he served honorably for something in the neighborhood of 30 years.
As an extra screw-you, he was handcuffed in the back.
In the 25-count indictment, he was hit with two. Not the heavy grand larceny and conspiracy charges faced by others, but with non-specific bid-rigging counts. No specific time, no specific act, just a span of years and a blanket, unsubstantiated allegation.
Guess who was on the front page of the paper the next day? Guess who perp walked across every newscast, and whose face has been on every journalistic retelling of this tale?
The guy who seemed at best to be a peripheral player. The guy against whom there was the flimsiest of evidence. The guy who seems to have taken the hit because of who he’s married to.
From the day of the arrest, Wiesner’s lawyer said that the indictment was bogus because Wiesner had been denied his right to testify before the grand jury. Notified of the investigation, Wiesner asked to appear before the grand jury, to be questioned by attorney general prosecutors. His request was ignored, even though it is a fundamental right under New York law and a daily occurrence before grand juries.
And any intern at the office can tell you that that made the indictment against Wiesner one gavel away from being null and void, thrown out because it was defective.
Yet Attorney General Eric Schneiderman went ahead with the dog-and-pony show anyway. Handcuffs, perp walk, the destruction of a man’s lifelong public reputation.
And a week later he backs off.
Robert Wiesner’s lawyer asked the court to drop the charges against his client because of the attorney general’s failure to follow the law. Anybody you asked said the judge was going to do so.
So last Friday night, in the last minutes of the work day, when cowards of every stripe send out their press releases, Eric Schneiderman announced that his office would not argue against dropping the charges. He would go along. The defect was obvious.
The charges will be dropped.
In the eyes of the law, Wiesner is an innocent man, against whom there will be no accusation of illegal conduct.
Oh sure, the attorney general threatens, there may be another grand jury and another indictment, but we’ll believe that check’s in the mail when we open the envelope.
Until then we’re left with a horrifying spectacle in a society supposedly governed by rule of law. We have the appearance of vindictive prosecution, of the misuse of legal powers to publicly humiliate a man because of his wife’s politics.
This was done to a man who spent the bulk of his adult life as a police officer, and ultimately as a high-ranking leader in his department.
By some political-climber attorney general using his Keystone Cops organization to score partisan points for himself. This smells like a Democrat wannabe bending the law and using the powers of his office to tout his future gubernatorial campaign.
Eric Schneiderman says he is committed to stopping corruption wherever he finds it.
Then he should resign.
Her official homecoming begins Saturday but first Fayetteville's Nina Davuluri talked first with Bob. Listen Below