State Senator John Sampson’s defense team has taken a rather bizarre approach, practically admitting that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sale of foreclosed homes - but that he did it too long ago for him to be prosecuted.
The pol appeared in court on Thursday to have two of the 10 counts against him dismissed, arguing that the funds were embezzled earlier than prosecutors said. According to a New York Times report, the issue revolves around the definition of embezzlement. The prosecution’s charges are based on when Sampson spent the money; Sampson’s defense said it should have been on when he moved it into an escrow account he controlled.
The paper reports:
The defense agreed, for the purposes of the motion, that the embezzlement took place in 1998 and 2002, when Mr. Sampson transferred the money to escrow accounts he controlled.
It is “extraneous” and “irrelevant” how and when the embezzled funds were spent, his lawyer, Nathaniel H. Akerman, said in court on Thursday.
A prosecutor, Alexander A. Solomon, argued that embezzlement was “not complete until the defendant used the funds in the escrow account,” which occurred within the five-year window.
The judge said the pol’s failure to return the money “shows some intention,” but also noted the prosecutor’s logical flaw that, if the money was not returned but also never spent, then the pol could never be prosecuted.
The case stems from two incidents in 1998 and 2002, when Sampson, a lawyer, was appointed the referee in foreclosure proceedings. He was to oversee the sale of the homes, pay off the debts, and return the surplus funds to the state within five days. According to the prosecution, and now apparently the defense as well, he did not return those funds and instead began using them for personal benefit in 2008.
The judge will rule on the motion by the end of the month, according to Capital New York. Sampson faces eight other counts for obstruction of justice, witness tampering and lying to federal prosecutors.