Ex-State Senator's Corruption Trial Turns Wacky

Justice SystemCrime, Law and JusticeSoundviewBrooklyn (New York City)

Court cases are supposed to be about law, order and justice, but the embezzlement and conspiracy trial of Pedro Espada dealt with positive and negative energy, conspiracy theories, holy blood and rosary beads. In short, the case, now in its tenth day of jury deliberations, succeeded in being funky as it attempted to be fair.

"I am sure we'll have a fair outcome," Espada said on his way into court, on a day that had no shortage of wacky aspects which the former New York State Senate Majority Leader felt were working to produce the outcome he sought.

Before going inside the federal courthouse in Downtown Brooklyn, Espada accused prosecutors and an IRS agent working with them of trying to negatively influence jurors sympathetic to Espada by sitting in those jurors chairs occasionally while the jurors were out of the courtroom deliberating.

So what was Espada's strategy for countering that negative energy? He mentioned a woman in a fire engine red dress and 5-inch high heels to match, who sat behind him in the courtroom. Monica Harris is her name, and she wore a wide necklace of precious stones around her neck. Her role as an Espada supporter, she said as she stroked her necklace, was to produce energy that built up the former legislator.

"Natural stones carry positive energy," Harris told PIX11 News, "And red is a color that gives protection." She later added that red is the color of the holy blood of Jesus Christ, which she said also sustained the state senator who represented the South Bronx, but drew ire from some constituents for living in Mamaroneck, in Westchester County, well outside of his district.

Also, after deliberating for just 30 minutes, the jury sent a note to the judge that began, " Can we hand in a partial verdict?" Judge Frederic Block, as well as the rest of the courtroom, took that to mean that the jury was ready to render a partial verdict, on some of the eight theft, fraud and conspiracy charges Espada, and his son, also named Pedro, were facing.

However, when the judge called the jury into the courtroom, the foreperson instructed Judge Block that the note merely meant that jurors wanted to know if a partial verdict was possible, not that they actually had one.

"It's like saying 'Will you marry me?', one member of the prosecution later joked, saying that instead of that being a proposal, it's "saying, "I just wanted to know if you'll marry me.'"

"My English teacher always said, 'It's important how you write!'" the former senator said during a break, lamenting how the jurors had failed to be clear in their note.

They sent out another note around 3:15 P.M., asking to be released to go home at 4:45. When the judge called the jurors in to discuss their note, one juror was missing. About a minute later, Juror #3 entered the jury box, claiming he didn't know the jurors were being summoned.

Espada and his son Pedro are accused of using federal and state grants to the low-cost Soundview Clinic they ran in the South Bronx as a half-million dollar personal piggy bank. They're accused of having bought $60,000 worth of sushi and lobster dinners, making a $50,000 downpayment on a Bentley high-luxury sedan, and going on lavish vacations among other expenditures.

Espada talked outside of the courtroom about having prayed with his rosary beads inside. In the end, the jury of seven men and five women will determine whether or not the once-powerful senator has a prayer.

They came to no conclusion on Friday. When they return Monday, they will have been deliberating for 13 calendar days. The judge is trying to encourage them to reach some verdict, even if it is only a partial one.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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