Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Political Show Trial of James Smith

Democratic Assistant DA William Gargan opened his argument in the trial of former Deputy County Executive James Smith with this breathtaking hypocrisy:   "When you choose to serve the public, you have to act in the best interest of the public, not the party."   Physician, heal thyself.

Gargan's claim to "try to keep politics out" of the trial is as unbelievable and flimsy as the evidence he proffered in his other "Robutrad" case, against Andrew Moore, which the judge dismissed in its entirety, citing a prosecutorial theory "bordering on the preposterous."

The trial of James Smith is nothing but a political show trial.   A pointless show trial, since Smith's indictment and the Moore indictment failed to produce their intended effect:   to influence last November's County elections so as to flip the County Legislature to the Democrats.

James Smith, as Deputy County Executive, learned about Robutrad workers visiting a strip joint during work hours.   According to testimony, Smith blew his top, confronting them immediately.   He threatened them with firing and immediately consulted with the County's head of personnel about the best way to lower the boom on misconduct by these workers.   By the next day County Executive Brooks was in the loop and decided the best way was to report the matter to law enforcement.

Smith's response was well within the range of managerial reasonableness, by any objective standard.   Yet the Democratic District Attorney indicted him for it.   In the world according to Bill Gargan and DA Mike Green, it's now a crime to make a management decision with which the District Attorney disagrees.

Federal authorities already had looked into the Robutrad matter.   They found nothing to indict in the conduct of either James Smith or Andrew Moore.   But Democratic DA Mike Green and Democratic Assistant DA Gargan each had a political agenda.   Green hoped for appointment to the open federal judgeship.   Gargan wants a judgeship in the City Court or County Court.

But the boys had to pay to play.   Pay, as in cranking up a malfeasance by some low-level County employees into a political "scandal," engineered to reach up into the Republican County Executive's office and into the County Republican organization.   Gargan and his boss, Green (nothing in the DA's office happens without el hefe's review and approval) contrived charges against Smith in the Execs office, and against Moore at Republican Headquarters.

Before he politicized his office, Green was well regarded in all corners of the political world.   But as the Moore and Smith farces have dragged out, Green's ambition and political motivations have become increasingly apparent.   His likeability, for being considered above politics, has diminished significantly.

As for Gargan, despite the odor of compromising his professional duty to help David Gantt beat the rap in 2008, and his careful political contributions to Gantt's sidekick, Lovely Warren and to the Monroe County Democratic Committee (both in positions to influence the Democratic nominee for a judgeship, or appointment by a Democratic Governor to an open seat), Gargan's blatantly political motives in the Moore and Smith cases have tripped him up.   He felt he had to withdraw from consideration for appointment to the recently vacant County Court seat, realizing it would be recognized, only too clearly, as a political payoff.

In an elegant piece of cosmic symmetry, Gargan had to grin and bear it Tuesday when news came that Kelly Wolford, Gargan's colleague in the DA's office, got the appointment as the new County Court judge.   The same day, testimony began in Gargan's political show trial of James Smith.   "As ye sow, so shall ye reap ..."

First the voters rendered their verdict on Green's and Gargan's misconduct, by re-electing Moore, after his indictment, to the Penfield Town Council.   Then even Green realized his office had gone too far, dropping the felony indictment against Moore, in an inexpressibly embarrassing professional rebuke to Gargan.

But Green set himself up for his own professional humiliation by not dropping the misdemeanor charges against Moore as well.   Three weeks ago, Judge Richard Keenan did the job for him, dismissing all remaining charges against Moore, citing flimsy prosecutorial theories and no evidence other than that which he called "bordering on the preposterous."

Word from inside the DA's office is that Green is furious with Gargan over the dismissal of the case against Moore.   Had Green done the right thing and withdrawn them himself, he'd have been spared this further public rebuke.

All that remains for Gargan is to grind through the motions of this week's political show trial, with his boss, Green, cringing in the background, licking his wounds and hoping to avoid, in the Smith trial, another self-inflicted professional embarrassment as great as the dismissal of the Moore charges.


Anonymous said...

Great post. Are you following the trial live on twitter? Check out and and

Would love to get your comments.

Anonymous said...

God forbid that we, the taxpayers, can finally get an insiders view of how our county government is run. It is abundantly clear for testimony to date that politics, not the public interest, is what is being served every minute of the day in the County Office Building. It defies belief that Smith did not know what Robutrad and Morone were up to. Curious why Brayton Connard insisted that work be done "off the clock" on his home; did he know that work was being done elsewhere "one the clock?" This whole thing stinks to high heaven, and those that choose to call it a show trial are ignoring, and condoning this type of activity by public officials. I for one, don't want my tax dollars spent on politics. They are separate activities and should not be co-mingled.

Philbrick said...

If you really "don't want my tax dollars spent on politics" because "they are separate activities and should not be co-mingled," shouldn't we be prosecuting every single member of Congress over the health Care Bill?

Whether they voted for it or against, every last one of them would have had conversations in their offices about the political ramifications about their vote, and the outcome.

It's good that elected officials worry about politics during working hours. It means they're aware they can be voted out at the next election, and have to pay attention to what the public wants.

Anonymous said...

I think 1:15 should be more concerned getting estimates for fixing the broken window at the University Ave office and less time spewing silly rhetoric here. Just a note, when I see you express concern about FACTUAL instances of politics being played by local democrat electeds (ie: Mayor Duffy setting up a cushy job for his girl Molly Clifford that she is unqualified for, which pays her over $100,000 a year, and having Caufiled and Malgieri hide how it all went down from the public and press) then and only then can you be taken seriously. Period. Good day.