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NY state Sen. Sampson found guilty of obstruction

July 24, 2015 By Tom Hays Associated Press
State Sen. John Sampson, red tie, stands during a press briefing outside federal court on Cadman Plaza East. AP Photo/Tom Hays
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A once-powerful New York politician was convicted Friday on charges he took extreme measures to undermine a corruption investigation targeting him for embezzlement.

A federal jury in Brooklyn reached the verdict after deliberating for about a week at the trial of state Sen. John Sampson.

He was found guilty of one count of obstruction of justice and two counts of making false statements. He was acquitted on six other counts, including witness tampering.

Sampson, 50, who was re-elected last year, was at the center of the latest federal trial resulting from federal prosecutors’ campaign against dirty dealing in Albany.

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Prosecutors originally charged the Brooklyn Democrat with embezzling funds while acting as a court-appointed referee for home foreclosure proceedings in the mid-2000s. They also alleged he persuaded a real estate developer to loan him nearly $200,000 to cover up the theft in exchange for political favors.

A judge threw out the embezzlement charges but allowed prosecutors to proceed with an obstruction case that relied largely on the testimony of the broker, Edul Ahmad, who pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud charges.

At trial, jurors heard conversations recorded by Ahmad of an encounter with Sampson at a Queens restaurant in 2012. Ahmad testified that he told Sampson the government had subpoenaed his business documents, then showed the senator a record of the loan to him and asked what he should do with it.

“That’s a problem. … I don’t think you should show it to them,” Sampson said, according to a transcript.

There also was testimony from a former paralegal who testified how Sampson exploited their lifelong friendship by persuading the witness to check a law enforcement database for names of cooperating witnesses.

Sampson “thought he was above the law, the defendant acted as if he was above the law and the defendant broke the law,” prosecutor Paul Tuchman said in closing arguments.

Defense attorney Nathaniel Akerman argued that Sampson was entrapped by a shady cooperator and an elaborate sting operation “that would make Steven Spielberg proud.”

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