NEW YORK (PIX11)—Cuffed, but not cowering, New York State Senator Shirley Huntley turned herself in at the Nassau County Courthouse today to face charges that she funneled taxpayer money to a phony charity and then tried to cover it up.
She tried for the sunny demeanor deflection. "It's a great day," she told reporters on her way in to face two felony charges, that if she's convicted on, will mean automatically getting kicked off the Senate she's spent the past six years working for.
Huntley's attorney tried to down play the severity of the charges that could get her client up to eight years in prison. "She is charged with some simple tampering type charges, not stealing, and she intends to go forth with her day in court."
Four people, including the senator, her legislative aid and her niece were all charged with various felony counts today, for creating what Attorney General Eric Schneiderman calls a sham charity in 2006, the Parents Workshop in Valley Stream Long Island, run out of a house in a residential neighborhood, where he contends no charitable work was ever done, but nearly $30,000 of taxpayer money was used to line their pockets.
Schneiderman drove home the charges, "Evidence has showed very quickly it was a sham funded by member item money funneled to her aid, Patricia Savage and the Senator's niece, Lynn Smith." He went on to describe how the women pocketed the funds. "They had a system set up where they could get the checks cashed and keep the money."
The attorney general even produced a smoking gun letter in what he says is the Senator's own handwriting showing an attempted coverup.
The six-year senator tried to get out in front of this story over the weekend, holding a press conference surounded by some 75 supporters at her Jamaica, Queens home, where she rose to prominence as an elected school board member. One speaker, the Reverand Chuck Norris, Sr. called attention to the timing of the charges coming just weeks before a primary election--and seemed to make a threat.
I'm sure Shirley Huntley knows where bones are buried and I would wonder that if possible, and these charges continue to go on, these bones would be unburied and unearthed."
Huntley's camp not the only ones making threats or promises. The Attorney General says his investigation into Huntley at the least, and even possibly other senators, for using charities as personal piggy banks will grind on. $900 million has been distributed through "member items" since 1999, so the attorney general will have plenty to explore.