Attorney General

Schneiderman Pledges To Handle Police Cases With Independence

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will be appointed a special prosecutor in cases involving police-related deaths of unarmed civilians after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers failed to reach a broader agreement on criminal justice reform measures.

Schneiderman first called on Cuomo to issue the executive order in December after a grand jury on Staten Island declined to indict a police officer in the choke hold death of Eric Garner.

Now, Cuomo will be issuing an executive order that will grant Schneiderman that power for 12 months with an eye toward potentially reaching an agreement next year.

“My office will handle these cases with the highest level of care and independence, while we continue to work with lawmakers, District Attorneys, advocates and other experts in criminal justice reform on a long-term legislative solution to this critical matter of law and policy,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “All of us who care about the great State of New York must redouble our efforts to strengthen the ties between communities and the police officers and prosecutors who devote themselves so honorably to public protection.”

The lack of an agreement comes after Assembly Democrats sought a number of measures designed to change criminal justice procedures, including a special prosecutor to handle certain cases as well as new requirements for grand jury transparency when an indictment is not issued.

Senate Republicans had always been hesitant to approve the changes and instead this year held a series of hearings on police safety, spurred in part by the assassinations of two New York City police officers.

Schneiderman, in the statement, said he was disappointed by the lack of action.

“This order was to remain in effect only until the Governor and the Legislature enacted statutory reforms to address this critical issue in a permanent and considered fashion,” he said. “I am disappointed that, six months later, we did not see such statutory action — part of a broader failure to achieve meaningful reform on a range of issues in this legislative session.”

Lawsky: DFS And AG Had ‘Good Relationship’

Outgoing Department of Financial Services Superintendent Ben Lawsky insisted in an interview on Thursday his regulatory agency’s relationship with the state attorney general’s office is a good one.

“We’ve had a really good relationship, for the most part, with the attorney general’s office,” Lawsky said on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom. “We try not to step on each other toes and I think that helps as well, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Lawsky is leaving the Cuomo administration at the end of this month after he became the first superintendent of the newly formed Financial Services department, which was created out of a merger between the insurance and banking departments.

The creation of the DFS in 2011 sparked some interest at the time given its purview was financial regulation and its potential to outshine the new attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, a Democratic former state senator who succeeded Andrew Cuomo.

Both Cuomo and his immediate predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, empowered the attorney general’s office through high-profile consumer and financial investigations.

The governor, more generally, is not especially close with Schneiderman. In the latest dust up, The New York Times reported Wednesday night that Cuomo’s counsel sought information from agency general counsels on the work the attorney general’s office was performing through a formal survey.

Lawsky’s DFS tenure brought billions of dollars in windfall financial settlements for the state, though Schneiderman, not to be eclipsed, focused on a nationwide mortgage settlement effort that sought reforms in the home-lending industry.

Lawsky, however, said both Cuomo and Schneiderman agree that it helps to have more cops walk the financial beat.

“We talk about it frequently,” Lawsky said. “A couple more hands on deck as I’ve heard the governor and the attorney general say is only a good thing when policing our financial markets.”

Schneiderman: End Of Session ‘Like Dog Years’

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman dismissed the notion on Monday that there isn’t enough time to debate and pass his omnibus legislation meant to overhaul both campaign finance laws as well as ethics measures in the Legislature.

“You should not confuse the total lack of political will on some issues for complexity and a lack of time,” Schneiderman said at a news conference in Rochester. “The last few weeks in a legislative session in Albany — it’s like dog years. It’s an incredibly long period of time.”

The attorney general today made stops in Rochester and Buffalo to promote his package of measures that would, among other things, create a “full-time” Legislature that bans outside income and tightens campaign finance laws through capping donations and creating a public financing program.

The bill was introduced last month after the arrest of now-former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, the second legislative leader to be arrested on corruption charges this year.

There are 10 days left on the legislative calendar and state lawmakers are already due to debate the expiration of key measures like rent control and mayoral control of New York City schools.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said time is running out on introducing complex issues in the final days of the legislative session, due to conclude June 17.

Still, Cuomo said in a radio interview this morning he would keep lawmakers in Albany beyond the scheduled end of session if they fail to approve an extension of rent control.

“It’s really too easy to say we don’t have enough time,” Schneiderman said. “It’s not that they don’t have time, they don’t want to do it.”

Schneiderman Unveils Ethics Package

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman outlined a broad ethics and campaign finance overhaul proposal on Wednesday by introducing legislation that would change much of how the Legislature does business.

Schneiderman unveiled the omnibus package at the Tweed Courthouse in New York City — the same spot in which Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched his 2011 campaign for governor and promised to rid the Capitol of public corruption.

Since then, the parade of state lawmakers led out in handcuffs continues unabated.

Schneiderman’s omnibus package would:

  • Ban outside income of state lawmakers, save for payment from military service, royalties or pension income from previous employment
  • Ban per diem and switch to a reimbursement system
  • Give the attorney general’s office the jurisdiction to prosecute public corruption
  • Create new crime for undisclosed self-dealing such as using an official position to enrich oneself and strengthens anti-bribery laws
  • Shift the Legislature from a two-year term to a four-year term
  • Creates a 6-to-1 public donor matching system for political campaigns and caps matching funds for a candidate to receive in primary and general elections
  • Lowers political giving limits for candidates both in and out of the public financing system, with a statewide cap of $5,000 for the primary and general elections each.
  • Ends the practice of unlimited giving through limited liability companies and eliminates housekeeping or “soft money” accounts
  • Enacts lobbying reforms that would ban lobbyists from seeking donations for a public official or party and lowers the cap on personal contributions from a lobbyist to $250.
  • Adds clothing and tuition payments to the list of banned items that can be spent using campaign funds

Schneiderman had previously announced in an op/ed in The Times Union posted online Tuesday he would introduce the legislation this week.

At the moment, there appears to be very little appetite for passing new ethics legislation at the Capitol, despite the arrests of both legislative leaders this session in separate corruption cases (The arrest of now former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver did lead to new disclosure requirements for outside legal clients as well as curtailing some uses of campaign money).

Still, the measure is winning praise from good-government reform organizations upset that the needle does not seem to be moving much on ethics reform in the waning days of the session.

“The corruption we’re seeing in New York State government takes power from the hands of regular New Yorkers and taints the honorable work being done by the lion’s share of public officials. New Yorkers have had enough of so-called ethics reform that tinkers around the edges—what we need now is bold reform that gets to the root of corruption, equips law enforcement with the tools needed to fight it, and professionalizes our state legislature,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “It’s time to end the parade of prosecutions and restore people’s faith in their government.”

Schneiderman To Introduce Ethics Reform Package

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will introduce a package of ethics measures that range from lower caps on campaign contributions, lobbying restrictions and creates a full-time Legislature blocked from earning outside income.

Schneiderman laid out the legislative package in an op/ed to be published in The Times Union tomorrow and posted online late this afternoon.

The package, dubbed the End New York Corruption Now Act, comes after the legislative session in Albany has been rocked by the unprecedented arrests of both legislative leaders in the Democratic-led Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate.

Both Democrat Sheldon Silver and Republican Dean Skelos stepped down from their leadership posts following their arrests in separate corruption cases.

The omnibus package comes with only 12 legislative session days to go and with little stated desire from state lawmakers to take up a legislative response to the arrests.

“Remarkably, after the governor and the new leaders of the Legislature met May 13, it became clear that ethics and campaign finance reform are not even on the agenda as the legislative session draws to a close,” he wrote. “This glaring omission — if not corrected — would do a disservice to the lion’s share of elected officials who are honorable public servants, tainted by the misconduct of the few.”

In his op/ed, Schneiderman wrote “there is still time” to act on the measures.

“There are only two paths to meaningful change: fundamental reform of the system, or more investigations, arrests and prosecutions that further erode public confidence,” he wrote.

Schneiderman in March urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to enact sweeping ethics reform in the state budget, a call that was made in the wake of Silver’s arrest on extortion and fraud charges, but before Skelos was charged with using his official position to aid his son’s business interests.

The move puts the ball in the court of Cuomo, who has in recent weeks focused on top priority issues such as curtailing rape and sexual assault on college campuses as well as the creation of a tax credit meant to spur donations to schools and scholarship programs.

The Legislature and Cuomo agreed on a budget that included new disclosure requirements for lawmakers with legal clients, which is due to take effect in 2017.

Schneiderman, however, indicated those changes don’t go far enough, writing “the parade of arrests will not stop until our leaders take bold steps toward comprehensive reforms.”

The legislative session is scheduled to end June 17.

Schneiderman’s Office Releases Unsealed Attica Documents

The state attorney general’s office on Thursday released the previously unseen portions of an investigative report on the 1971 uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility.

The initial report, dubbed the Meyer Report, had been released in December 1975 as a stand-alone volume. But volumes two and three, a total of 46 pages, had been sealed.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in 2013 requested a state court unseal the report in 2013, which was granted on conditions: References to relating to evidence, testimony and witness matters or those related to grand jury proceedings were redacted.

“Today, we are shining new light on one of the darkest chapters of our history,” said Marty Mack, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs. “We hope that, with the release of the Meyer Report, we can bring the families of Attica uprising victims closer to closure and help future generations of Americans learn from this tragic event.”

Files related to the Attica uprising not part of the grand jury proceeding will be sent to the New York State Archives for permanent preservation.

The uprising at the Wyoming County prison began with inmates at the facility seizing control and demanding better living conditions.

After four days of negotiations, then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller ordered the State Police to retake the prison, resulting in the deaths of at least 43 people.

Meyer Report Vol 2 and 3 by Nick Reisman

Advocates: Gov Would Appoint AG Special Prosecutor

From the Morning Memo:

It has been widely reported that families whose loved ones were victims of police violence met with Cuomo at the Capitol and extracted a promise from him about appointing a special prosecutor in similar cases should the Legislature fails to pass criminal justice reform.

Now comes a new twist: According to one advocate and the mother of a black teenager killed by an NYPD officer, Cuomo said that the special prosecutor in question would be state AG Eric Schneiderman.

“The families do support that, and that’s actually what we talked to the governor about,” Loyda Colon of the Justice Committee said during a CapTon interview last night.

“All the families who met with the governor…were asking that he appoint the AG’s office, the attorney general’s office, the special prosecutor.”

“…So the governor did say that he actually only has the power to appoint the attorney general the special prosecutor; he can’t just choose any person,” Colon continued.

“So, he told the families he would meet with them in a month and also that if the reforms don’t go through that he would appoint the attorney general.”

Constance Malcolm, whose unarmed, 18-year-old son, Ramarley Graham, was shot and killed by and NYPD officer in 2012, concurred with Colon’s interpretation of Cuomo’s comments, saying of the AG-as-special-prosecutor idea: “We would take that as opposed to what we’ve got right now.”

A Cuomo spokesman was contacted regarding the advocates’ claims, but never responded to confirm or deny the governor’s alleged comments on this issue.

This is an interesting turn of events, given the longstanding tension between Cuomo and Schneiderman.

Not to mention the fact that Schneiderman long ago sought an executive order that would direct his office to investigate – and, if necessary, prosecute – cases involving unarmed civilians killed by police officers.

The governor wasn’t exactly big on that idea, nor were the local district attorneys, who don’t want to lose control over these cases – and, who advocates argue are too close to law enforcement to effectively prosecute them.

Instead, Cuomo in his State of the State address proposed a governor-appointed independent monitor who would have access to all records in these sensitive cases, and also would be able to appoint a special prosecutor should a local DA fail to secure an indictment.

Cuomo had hoped that his seven-point criminal justice reform plan would end up in the final budget, but it – like so many other policy proposals – fell off the negotiating table.

Malcolm said she and other family members “are not interested in the political back-and-forth” on this issue.

Advocates want the governor to use his executive power to appoint a special prosecutor ASAP, and are not interested in waiting until the end of the legislation session in June for action.

Schneiderman: Cuomo ‘Same Guy He Was Six Months Ago’

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman brushed off a question on Friday about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s upstate favorability rating and potential future as a candidate for re-election in 2018.

“We just got through running for re-election,” Schneiderman said during a news conference in Syracuse. “I just ran as a runningmate with the governor six months ago. He’s the same guy he was six months ago. Ups and downs in the polls don’t effect my thinking about this. I’m looking forward to working together for the next four years and as long as we’re working together after that.”

Cuomo is yet to declare whether he will run for a third term, though his campaign committee this month was renamed Andrew Cuomo 2018.

At the same time, his former top aide, Larry Schwartz, said in a statement sent to Capital Tonight shortly after that he expected the governor to run again.

Still, Schneiderman is seen as a potential candidate for the Democratic nomination in his own right and has staked out a more assertive posture when it comes to the governor on a variety of issues, ranging from the mass deletion of emails to increasing the state’s minimum wage through the Department of Labor.

Cuomo, meanwhile, has a difficult year both with the state budget and continued estrangement from the political left in the state. A Time Warner Cable News/Siena College poll released this week found 61 percent of upstate voters have an unfavorable view of the governor. Statewide, his favorable rating is much higher, standing at 58 percent.

Schneiderman is due to speak before the Democratic Rural Conference this evening, a key upstate constituency for any statewide Democratic official. The DRC backed Cuomo’s unsuccessful 2002 run for governor.

Schneiderman Pushes Cuomo On Minimum Wage

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman nudged Gov. Andrew Cuomo on to increase the state’s minimum wage himself in a Daily News op/ed published on Thursday.

In the op/ed, Schneiderman writes that Cuomo can convene a wage board through the Department of Labor that could hike the state’s minimum wage, which is due to increase to $9 by the end of the year.

“While the statewide minimum wage is set by the Legislature and the governor, state law endows the state’s commissioner of labor with the authority to investigate and increase the minimum wage for any occupation if the commissioner determines that a substantial number of employees ‘are receiving wages insufficient to provide adequate maintenance and to protect their health,'” Schneiderman wrote.

The call will likely embolden minimum wage advocates and labor groups to push Cuomo on creating the wage board for a broader increase.

Cuomo previously convened a wage board to consider a minimum wage increase for tipped workers, which was ultimately approved.

A minimum wage increase as proposed by Cuomo — called “modest” by Schneiderman in the op/ed — was not approved in the state budget this year.

Cuomo had proposed a two-tier wage for New York City at $11.50 and $10.50 elsewhere in the state.

The call for the wage board from Schneiderman comes after rallies and protest nationwide for a $15 minimum wage.

Schneiderman also notes from a tactical point of view, a wage board could spur state lawmakers into action.

“As a practical matter, faced with the real prospect of action by the commissioner of labor, legislators would be much more likely to pass an increase that could otherwise be held up for years,” he wrote. “Lawmakers zealously guard their prerogatives and, as much as some might oppose a minimum-wage increase, they will not want to see the issue taken out of their hands.

The op/ed continues an increased emphasis from Schneiderman not just on issues friendly to liberals in New York, but a more aggressive posture toward Cuomo, which has come to include urging him to take a bolder approach on ethics measures.

Schneiderman late last year sought to have Cuomo grant him power to probe police-related deaths involving unarmed civilians, a call that came after a grand jury declined to indict a New York City police officer in the choke hold death of Eric Garner.

Schneiderman’s Income Supplemented With Investments

Eric Schneiderman earned $327,516 combined with his pay as the state’s attorney general through income earned through dividends and gains made on investments, according to his tax returns made public today.

Schneiderman reported earning $150,971 in regular income, while also earning $49,459 through dividends. At the same time, Schneiderman reported $127,086 in income from capital gains through the sale of mutual funds.

Schneiderman paid $67,397 in federal income taxes last year and was owed $213, which he applied to next year’s taxes.

On the state level, Schneiderman paid $31,103 in taxes and owed $1,306, according to the returns provided by his office.

Schneiderman contributed $10,600 to various charities. He gave $8,400 to Manhattan synagogue B’nai Jeshurun. He contributed $1,000 to the Daily News Charities for the fallen officers fund following the assassinations of two New York City police officers.

A $200 donation to the ALS Association was also made by Schneiderman last year.

Schneiderman also gave $1,000 to a Go Fund Me campaign that benefited the family of Mark Hoops, a longtime employee of the attorney general’s Poughkeepsie office. Hoops was diagnosed with ALS and, following that, his wife was treated for being in a serious car accident and had trouble caring for her husband due to limited mobility as a result.

Schneiderman had initially made the donation to the Hoops family fund anonymously.