As indictments of minority elected officials continue to pile up, some leaders have openly suggested, while offering scant evidence, that a conspiracy exists to remove blacks and Latinos from power. But U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, one of two federal prosecutors responsible for bringing many of the recent corruption charges, outright rejected any conspiracy theories last night.
“There certainly is no conspiracy to look at any particular group,” Ms. Lynch told reporters after speaking in front of a civic group in Marine Park, Brooklyn. “[Pedro] Espada was from the Bronx. You have other politicians from this area who have been prosecuted here, politicians from my district have been prosecuted in Manhattan as well, because it depends upon what evidence develops and where the case takes you. You really can’t predict that, to be honest with you.”
Ms. Lynch is black and her fellow U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is Indian-American. Together, within the last two months, they have brought corruption charges against a slew of lawmakers, including State Senators Shirley Huntley, Malcolm Smith and John Sampson, as well as Assemblyman Eric Stevenson and Councilman Dan Halloran.
For her part, Ms. Lynch tried to rationalize why someone like State Senator James Sanders–the recent host of a debate dubbed “Attack on Black Leaders: Corruption or Conspiracy?”–openly wonder whether there is a conspiracy at work.
“No matter what type of case we prosecute, people who may feel targeted are concerned and make all kinds of statements about it,” Ms. Lynch said. “It’s part of the problem of public corruption that it really almost makes everyone look as if they’re involved, even if they’re not. And so you have people get very paranoid and very nervous and feel as if they’re under a microscope … We don’t go around targeting people other than those that we strongly have evidence [against], but I think what happens is, the atmosphere is very toxic, for lack of a better word, and it does affect people and that’s a byproduct of these cases,” she said.
Councilman Jumaane Williams, who also attended last night’s event, said the question of whether there is a conspiracy against minorities in power is not being framed the right way. The fact that he was even being asked about it, he said, was part of the problem.
“I’ve never heard anybody ask how it affects the white community,” Mr. Williams said of the corruption scandals. “I think people look at elected officials of more color twice as hard and the blame is three times as much. So I think they have some kind of issue there, the fact that the question is asked for one group and not the other again shows how much of the problem there is.”
When Politicker asked who the “people” were and whether they included federal prosecutors, Mr. Williams said it was “everybody.”
“That’s how, since I’ve been growing up, I’ve understood the world to be,” he said. “It’s unfortunate because I’ve tried real hard to change that but that’s the way the world works.”