Consultant convicted of stealing from mayor Bloomberg

Reuters News

10/21/2011 1:34:42 PM - Reuters News

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A jury on Friday convicted political consultant John Haggerty of stealing almost $1 million from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg during his 2009 re-election campaign.

In its third day of deliberations, the jury found Haggerty guilty of second-degree grand larceny and second-degree money laundering but cleared him of first-degree grand larceny.

He faces up to 15 years in prison. No sentencing date was set.

The verdict capped a three-week trial that saw Bloomberg himself and a host of City Hall power players take the witness stand in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Haggerty was accused of taking money from Bloomberg to be used for scrutinizing whether people trying to vote were actually eligible to cast ballots, but instead using the money to buy his late father's house in Queens.

Haggerty's legal defense team tried to show how the money took a circuitous route before it actually got to Haggerty, who had convinced Bloomberg to donate the money to the state Independence Party to fund the project. The defense said no crime against the mayor had been committed, since he willingly gave the funds to the party and no longer had any say in how they were spent.

Bloomberg ran as a Republican, while Democrats said what Haggerty was hired to do amounted to attempts to suppress the votes of minorities and some other voter groups.

The case spotlighted Bloomberg's campaign spending, a topic the billionaire mayor -- who funds his own campaigns -- is typically reluctant to discuss.

The rare spectacle of a city mayor testifying in open court drew a packed courtroom. Bloomberg, who is notoriously impatient with press questioning, was forced to endure hours of aggressive cross-examination from a defense lawyer intent on making his wealth and power the focus of the case.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)