In Reply: Abuse of Force: How Mt. Vernon's Narcotics Squad Fell Apart, Thanks To Whistleblower Cop
In reply to an article on alleged corruption in the Mount Vernon Police Department, former Mount Vernon Inspector General Charles Knapp provided context to a reference to former Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas in the comment section on the Gothamist website. Former Inspector General Knapp's comment reads (without any edits) as follows:
Sad and predictable as this story is, the bigger one revolves around what the article calls the “disgraced mayor” who pled guilty to campaign violations. Here’s the background, and you can decide for yourselves.
That Mayor ran on a clean-up MV platform and unexpectedly won to become the City’s youngest Mayor.
As he started to make good on his promises, then-AG Schneiderman saw a potent political rival down road and wrangled an open-ended criminal referral from the Comptroller into MC’s finances.
All that came from the year and a half grand jury investigation was an indictment on improper campaign reporting - an issue the AG had been made aware of through a complaint that it never passed on to the State Board of Elections which had jurisdiction. Apparently, MV itself was clean as a whistle!
A judge in Manhattan ruled the AG’s investigation of the election complaint to have been illegal because the State Board of Elections had exclusive initial jurisdiction under state law.
The DOE, given the amounts involved and the extenuating circumstances including that the Mayor lent his campaign more than he was reimbursed, would in all likelihood have handled the complaint as a civil matter with a small fine.
But between the argument and the decision the next day, the AG rushed through the indictment and told the judge he’d lost jurisdiction to decide. Nevertheless, the court issued its opinion.
Safely back in Westchester, the local judge’s decision was essentially a cut and pasted job of the AAG’s brief - which argued that it could prosecute any other crime it uncovered during its investigation of MV’s finances. The court ignored the awkward questions of why the AG never informed the Board of Elections of the complaint it had received nor how the AG could uncover something it already knew about.
The AAG then acted to insure that the Mayor was not in any position to pay his attorneys by intimidation.
The Mayor ran for re-election in the primary but was told the weekend before that vote by an insider that he would not come within 200 votes of the winner - he lost to the Party-backed candidate by some 207 votes and filed a challenge.
No longer able to defend himself at trial, the Mayor admitted guilt to two misdemeanors, paid a fine, received no jail but had to agree not run for any office for a year (which required him to withdraw his election challenge) but the AG (now James, Schneiderman having resigned in actual disgrace months earlier) agreed he would remain Mayor through September (the election was that November.)
The City Council declared the Mayor’s position vacant, violating the plea agreement which the AG then refused to stand by. A different local court eventually ruled that this action was lawful - even though the prior Mayor had pled guilty to federal tax evasion but completed the nearly 2 years remaining in his term. So the Mayor stepped down.
When law enforcement is hijacked for purely political partisan ends, it’s the people - in this case, the long suffering residents of MV - who are the real victim. You can decide for yourself is that is what happened in this case.
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