In their first public statement since being arrested last month on bribery-based corruption charges, two former NYPD commanders and a well-known Brooklyn businessman pleaded not guilty in Manhattan’s Federal District Court last week. The pleas of the three men – former Deputy Chief Michael J. Harrington, former Deputy Inspector James M. Grant and businessman Jeremiah Reichberg – came during their arraignment on the charges, which arise from prosecutors’ allegations that Reichberg showered the cops with illegal gifts in return for police favors.
Reichberg and another influential local figure, Jona S. Rechnitz, play an integral part in one of several federal corruption probes into campaign fund-raising by Mayor Bill de Blasio and his associates. Unlike Reichberg’s refusal to admit guilt, Rechnitz has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud in the plot, and is cooperating with the authorities.
As reported by the New York Times, court papers offer ample description of how Reichberg and Rechnitz deluged senior police officials with lavish gifts. These ranged from standard presents such as jewelry or a video game system to a private flight to Las Vegas with an on-board prostitute illicitly providing her services to the NYPD brass.
Harrington has since retired from the department, while Grant resigned one month before his arrest, noted his lawyer, John Meringolo, without commenting on the reason behind the officer’s resignation.
Speaking after the hearing in defense of his client, Meringolo singled out one of the allegations against Grant – ticket-fixing – claiming it could be construed as professional misconduct, but was certainly not a federal crime.
“We feel the government will have a very, very hard time proving this case,” Meringolo asserted to the New York Times, noting Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server during her tenure as secretary of state. “She was unaware that she was committing any crimes,” Grant’s lawyer said. “Here there are no crimes whatsoever.”
“I think my client wants to have his day in court,” Meringolo added. “And we take the position that we will be exonerated at trial.”
At the time of their arrest, the three defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. Subsequently, though, an indictment by a federal grand jury piled on charges of honest services wire fraud and conspiracy to pay and receive bribes, along with other offenses.