NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Former senator Pedro Espada went on trial Wednesday nearly three years after CBS 2 began a series of exposes about his political career and the operation of his Bronx health clinic.
It all started when political reporter Marcia Kramer discovered he lived in the leafy suburb of Mamaroneck, not the gritty Bronx district he represented.
Kramer was there Wednesday as opening statements got underway.
Prosecutor Carolyn Pokorny walked into Brooklyn Federal Court clutching poster boards and accompanied by carts and carts of evidence that she hopes will help to convict Espada of embezzling money from the Soundview non-profit health clinic he founded.
Espada, once the highest-ranking Hispanic in state politics, came to face the music with an entourage that included his wife, and with his characteristic swagger and bravado. He faces charges that he embezzled more than half a million dollars from Soundview, reportedly spending money on sushi dinners, a $49,000 down payment on a Bentley and a lavish lifestyle.
“This is the one opportunity we’ve been waiting for for two years. Let the truth and the facts determine what really happened here,” Espada, said, adding when he was pressed by Kramer to reveal the truth, “The truth is that we’re completely innocent.”
In court Espada was much more subdued, even pensive. He and his son, Pedro G. Espada, who is also charged in the case, sat at opposite ends of the defense table.
With their carts of evidence, some from an FBI raid on his health clinic, prosecutors said they will prove that Pedro Espada used money from the clinic to fund his high-flying lifestyle, a lifestyle that included a posh home in an upscale Westchester County suburb.
Kramer first told you in April of 2009 that he lived in Mamaroneck when he was supposed to live in the Bronx district he represented.
Court papers indicate Espada attorney Susan Necheles will try to convince jurors Espada was the victim of a political vendetta, but the former lawmaker refused to talk about a witch hunt.
“There is no bitterness or any kind of acrimony in my mind,” Espada said.
No matter what the outcome, Espada will face a second trial on tax fraud and a civil suit that includes allegations, which were first disclosed by CBS 2, that he underpaid janitors at his clinic, with some getting as little as $1.70 an hour.
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