Norman Seabrook (Bryan Smith via Newscom)
The former head of one of New York’s more powerful lcorrection officers’ unions, Norman Seabrook, was denied dismissal of corruption charges against him and a co-defendant Monday by U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter Jr. of the Southern District of New York.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York charged Seabrook in June 2016 with honest services fraud and a related wire fraud conspiracy count for allegedly receiving a $60,000 kickback from a Manhattan hedge fund in exchange for steering $20 million of Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association Inc. retirement funds to the firm.
In their motion in U.S. v. Seabrook, 16-cr-00467, Seabrook and his co-defendant, Murray Huberfeld of Platinum Partners, argued that the government illegally used wiretapped conversations obtained during surveillance of Huberfeld in a separate police corruption investigation to bring charges.
The defendants argued the government violated the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, which stipulates secondary evidence gathered in the execution of an authorized electronic surveillance cannot be used unless a judge is told in a timely fashion.
Carter found that the government was “not required to ignore evidence of another crime … in plain view,” and having disclosed in progress reports potential evidence related to their original authorization, the government was in compliance.
“It is of no consequence that the affidavits submitted to the courts for approval do not mention honest services fraud in the context of the allegations made against Huberfeld (and Seabrook), because the interception was nonetheless lawful,” Carter wrote.
The court also rejected defendants’ argument that federal honest services fraud statutes were too vague in describing the scope of fiduciary duty as related to Seabrook. Carter noted that the majority in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Skilling v. U.S. decision, from which defendants’ arguments relied on former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s concurrence for framing, the majority had, in fact, addressed the issue of scope by specifically using the example of union officials and their members.
Additionally, the defendants asked Carter for an evidentiary hearing on whether Jona Rechnitz, a real estate developer involved in a number of ongoing federal public cases cooperating with the government, was complying with his cooperation agreement. Carter denied the “novel request.”
Counsel for Huberfeld, Clayman & Rosenberg partner Henry Mazurek, said that the issues in the dismissal motion “will continue to be litigated at trial.” In particular, Mazurek said the defense “will continue to press the government” on the reliability of Rechnitz. Mazurek said Rechnitz had “already proved to be a liar in his government interviews” in this and other non-related cases.
“We believe that the government’s failure to fulfill its duty prevents Mr. Huberfeld from getting a fair trial, because the government’s knowing use, and support, of false testimony involves a fundamental corruption of the truth-seeking function of the trial process,” Mazurek said.
Bracewell partner Paul Shechtman, who represents Seabrook, could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.
The trial in the case is set to begin on Oct. 18.