Attorney General

Schneiderman To Sue Over Net Neutrality Rollback

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will lead a multi-state legal challenge to the Federal Communications Commission’s rollback of net neutrality regulations, approved Thursday in a party line vote.

“The FCC’s vote to rip apart net neutrality is a blow to New York consumers, and to everyone who cares about a free and open internet,” Schneiderman said.

“The FCC just gave Big Telecom an early Christmas present, by giving internet service providers yet another way to put corporate profits over consumers. Today’s rollback will give ISPs new ways to control what we see, what we do, and what we say online. That’s a threat to the free exchange of ideas that’s made the Internet a valuable asset in our democratic process.”

The rollback changes regulations dating to President Barack Obama’s administration and some tech companies like Netflix, Facebook and Google fear it could lead to a tiered Internet in which some lanes for certain websites and streaming services move faster than others, with faster lanes costing more.

The changes also come amid a period of major consolidation and upheaval in the media industry as streaming services have presented new challenges to more established pay TV providers.

Schneiderman’s office has also raised concerns with the the public comments posted on the FCC’s website on the net neutrality issue, with up to two million based on stolen identities of people who never made them, including more than 100,000 comments from states like New York, Florida, Texas, and California.

Schneiderman Blasts Acting Consumer Board Chief

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday said his office and a coalition of attorneys general around the country would continue to enforce consumer protection laws amid turmoil at the federal Consumer Financial Protection Board.

Schneiderman, in a letter signed by the AGs, knocked the acting director, Mick Mulvaney, who took over the agency amid a leadership dispute with the departing, Democratic-nominated head.

The letter notes Mulvaney has been critical of the board’s functions and enforcement powers.

“Such statements about an agency that has helped millions of American consumers and achieved fundamental reform in a number of critically important areas of American commerce are categorically false, and should disqualify Mr. Mulvaney from leading the agency, even on an acting basis,” the letter states.

“As the top state law enforcement officials charged with investigating consumer complaints of fraudulent, deceptive and abusive financial practices in our respective states, we know from first-hand experience that the need for strong consumer financial protection is undiminished in the years since the financial crisis.”

Indictment Moves WNY Election Law Case Closer To Trial

A grand jury indicted three Western New York political operatives Friday afternoon on felony election charges. Steve Pigeon, Kristy Mazurek, and David Pfaff face two counts each related to unlawful campaign coordination.

Pigeon’s attorney Paul Cambria said these are the same charges from a felony complaint, to which the three defendants pleaded Not Guilty in April. Cambria said the case could not move to trial without the New York Attorney General’s office seeking an indictment.

“This was the next step. It’s always the next step. It’s not a surprise,” he said.

Pigeon, Mazurek, and Pfaff, are accused of illegally coordinating with candidates for Erie County Legislature in 2013. According to the indictment, they used an independent expenditure committee, the WNY Progressive Caucus, to raise money on behalf of candidates and circumvent campaign contribution limits.

“Today’s indictment sends a clear message that we’ll continue to aggressively enforce our state’s election and campaign finance laws,” AG Eric Schneiderman said. “These actions aren’t just illegal – they erode the public trust and we intend to hold them accountable.”

Cambria said the defendants will need to be arraigned again but that arraignment is not scheduled yet.

Rensselaer County DA Faces Charges Over Handling Of Police Case

The top prosecutor in Rensselaer County was arraigned Friday on charges that stem from his handling of a case involving a Troy man who was killed in 2016 by police in Troy.

District Attorney Joel Abelove pleaded not guilty on two misdemeanor counts of official misconduct and a first-degree perjury charge. He was released and will continue in office as the trial unfolds.

Abelove is the first county prosecutor to face charges after Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2015 approved an executive order that gave Attorney General Eric Schneiderman special prosecutor powers in cases in which a law enforcement officer causes the death of unarmed civilian.

Schneiderman’s office alleges Abelove’s office did not comply with efforts to determine whether the April 2016 shooting death of Edson Thevenin fell under the state’s jurisdiction. Instead, Abelove presented the case to a grand jury. Schneiderman’s office also alleges Abelove withheld information from the grand jury including material evidence.

At the same time, he conferred immunity on the officer involved in the case, Sgt. Randall French, before the grand jury voted.

“As we allege, District Attorney Abelove’s actions violated the law and undermined a criminal investigation,” Schneiderman said.

“The Governor’s Executive Order was designed to restore public confidence in our criminal justice system – yet the actions we detail today only served to further erode that confidence. My office will continue to work collaboratively with law enforcement agencies across the state, including district attorneys, to ensure fair, comprehensive, and independent investigations of every case within our jurisdiction, so that families like the Thevenins get the answers they deserve.”

Wills Pleads Guilty To Fraud Charge

Former New York City Councilman Ruben Wills on Tuesday pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor fraud charge stemming from failing to disclose personal loans he took out.

The guilty plea comes after Wills was found guilty of corruption charges filed by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for embezzling money from the state Office of Children and Family Services and the New York City Campaign Finance Board.

He is currently serving 2 to 6 years in prison and faces a $5,000 fine.

“New Yorkers trust that their elected officials will serve with integrity. Again and again, Ruben Wills violated that trust – stealing taxpayer dollars to line his own pockets and filing false documents to hide his financial dealings. He’s now in prison, paying the price,” Schneiderman said. “No public servant is above the law, and we’ll continue to root out and prosecute public corruption across New York.”

Wills’s conviction came in conjunction with an investigation carried out by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who in a statement credited the “Operation Integrity” partnership that helped land the case.

“Mr. Wills was elected to serve the public. Instead, he repeatedly broke the law by stealing public funds and, in this case, filed false disclosure forms to conceal his financial dealings,” DiNapoli said. “Thanks to our Operation Integrity partnership with Attorney General Schneiderman, Mr. Wills was convicted and is serving prison time.”

Schneiderman Files Injunction To Halt Birth Control Rule

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office on Friday announced a coalition of state AGs from around the country had filed an injunction to block the Trump administration’s rule change for access to birth control.

The Trump administration in October moved to expand the ability of employers to deny access to contraceptive coverage over religious objections.

Schneiderman, who signed onto the coalition of attorneys general challenging the move, said the health care decision shouldn’t be left up to employers.

“If a woman can’t control her own body, she isn’t truly free,” Schneiderman said. “Healthcare decisions should be made by a woman – not her boss. These retrograde rules seek to deny basic healthcare to millions of women in New York and across the country. We’ll continue to fight back and protect New Yorkers.”

The injunction is being sought by California, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia along with New York. It was filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in California.

Schneiderman has sought to be a thorn in the side of the Trump administration, challenging the president on a range of issues from immigration controls to transgender rights.

Schneiderman in January introduced a bill that would provide contraceptive coverage to women regardless of the outcome of the federal rule making in Washington.

Schneiderman Brief: Biz Owners Can’t Discriminate Against Customers

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Monday backed an amicus brief with 20 attorneys general that argued against a business owner rebuffing a customer because of personal beliefs.

Schneiderman was responding to a Colorado case in which a bakery owner refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple.

“A business owner can’t pick and choose which laws to comply with in order to discriminate under the guise of free speech,” Schneiderman said.

“Personal beliefs do not give someone the right to discriminate. Our coalition of Attorneys General will continue to fight to protect New Yorkers and all Americans who are entitled to equal protection, no matter who they love.”

Schneiderman and the AGs argued in the brief that states have backed laws in the country that require business to comply with laws such as Colorado’s public accommodations law. Similar cases involving wedding vendors, including florists and bakers, have appeared in New York in the years since the state legalized same-sex marriage in 2011.

“Allowing commercial businesses to use the First Amendment as a shield for discriminatory conduct would undermine state civil rights laws and the vital benefits they provide to residents and visitors, leaving behind a society separate and unequal by law,” the brief stated.

“Many Americans would face exclusion from a host of everyday businesses or, at the very least, the ever-present threat that any business owner could refuse to serve them when they walk in the door—simply because of their sexual orientation, or their race, religion, or gender.”

Schneiderman: Open Enrollment Begins Nov. 1

Open enrollment in the state’s health exchange begins next Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said on Friday, noting that despite efforts to repeal aspects of the Affordable Care Act, the law remains in place.

“Choosing a health plan is an incredibly important decision,” Schneiderman said. “The ACA is still the law — and New Yorkers should know they can enroll starting November 1st to find the right coverage for their needs. Exploring the New York Marketplace is a great way to start making health care enrollment decisions by comparing plans and analyzing costs to learn what options are available starting November 1st.”

New Yorkers seeking coverage must enroll by Jan. 31.

Schneiderman’s office has produced a brochure on shopping for health insurance that provides information for finding coverage in the marketplace and outside of it.

Schneiderman Joins Bid To Keep ACA Subsidies

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is backing an effort with fellow state AGs to preserve Affordable Care Act subsidies President Donald Trump’s administration wants to end.

The lawsuit was filed with a coalition of 19 attorneys general.

The subsidies are aimed at keeping insurance affordable as part of the law, commonly referred to as Obamacare. Senate Republicans are working on a compromise measure that would seek to stabilize the marketplace and provide the subsidies, generally aimed at those with qualifying incomes.

“President Trump’s abrupt move to cut these subsidies is reckless, dangerous, – and illegal,” Schneiderman said. “These payments are vital to thousands of New Yorkers and millions of Americans who rely on them to afford their health care. Yet President Trump is using those families as political pawns, putting their lives at risk to advance his own partisan agenda. We won’t stand for it – and we’re moving to block these dangerous cuts before they do any more harm.”

The subsidies have been previously challenged in court by House Republicans, who argue the payments are not legal.

Schneiderman Brief Opposes Transgender Ban In Military

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed an amicus brief on Monday opposed President Donald Trump’s plan to ban transgender individuals from military service.

“Transgender servicemembers fight for us every single day. They deserve a government that fights for them,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

“President Trump’s ban is yet another unconstitutional attempt to discriminate that undermines our national security and harms the transgender community in New York and across the country. Our coalition of Attorneys General will continue to fight to ensure that every New Yorker – and every American – is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

The brief was filed with a coalition of 15 attorneys general who oppose the ban, announced earlier this year by the president. The case challenging the move, Doe v. Trump, was filed by GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The coalition of state AGs argued in the brief that barring transgender soldiers and military personnel is preventing a fast-growing segment of the military from serving.

The brief states that “there is no evidence that it has disrupted military readiness, operational effectiveness, or morale. To the contrary, anecdotal accounts indicate that the positive impacts of inclusion were beginning to manifest, as capable and well-qualified individuals who were already serving finally were able to do so authentically.”

Doe v Trump – State Amicus Brief by Nick Reisman on Scribd