When Lynn Smith, the niece of ex-State Sen. Shirley Huntley, wrote to a federal judge in February to beg for leniency for her indicted aunt, she neglected to mention one crucial fact of her own story: she had pleaded guilty to stealing $30,000 a week earlier.
Ms. Huntley, who will be sentenced tomorrow after pleading guilty to embezzling $87,000 and tampering with physical evidence to obstruct a probe into the theft of member item money she sponsored for a nonprofit, roped Ms. Smith and several other associates into the scheme. Ms. Smith pleaded guilty in February to stealing $30,000 in taxpayer funds from a sham nonprofit group that Ms. Huntley founded. This information was not mentioned in her letter, made public today, to Judge Jack Weinstein.
“I am humbly requesting a second chance for by [sic] Aunt Shirley and that you allow her to remain in the community that she has served so unselfishly for over forty years,” Ms. Smith wrote. “Yes, I want and need my aunt at home for me but the community needs her also. I truly believe that removing Aunt Shirley from the community for any length of time would have a negative effect on both her and her family, friends, neighbors and community. If there is a penance to be paid by my Aunt Shirley, please allow her to pay it in the community that she has aided for so long.”
The letter describes a close relationship with “Aunt Shirley” that was cemented when Ms. Smith’s mother died in 1993. Ms. Smith said she views Ms. Huntley as a mother figure and still lives with her. Nowhere in the letter does Ms. Smith detail her political bond to her aunt, such as her campaign work for Ms. Huntley or her participation in the embezzlement scheme. Rather, she writes how “amazed” she is at the affection the community has shown Ms. Huntley over the years.
To help minimize her own sentence, Ms. Huntley also wore a wire and secretly recorded conversations with fellow lawmakers while cooperating with federal investigators last year. The names of the lawmakers are set to be revealed later today.
View the full letter, the last in the document, below: