ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A judge denied requests from the attorney of Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren to dismiss the grand jury’s indictment of the mayor in a virtual motion hearing on Monday in connection to charges for alleged campaign finance violations.
Recording and streaming of the court appearance was not allowed.
In October of 2020, Mayor Warren, along with two co-defendants, entered pleas of not guilty on two class E felony charges.
Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley said the mayor and co-defendants Albert Jones Jr. and Rosiland Brooks-Harris are facing two class E felonies, including scheme to defraud in the first degree, and violation of election law 14-126(6).
The mayor’s attorney spent Monday laying out his motions, including the equal protection clause argument which forces the state to not draw distinctions between people based on differences irrelevant to the case.
In this case, Warren’s lawyer said the safeguards against discriminatory practices weren’t given to Warren and the other two defendants in the Board of Elections investigation. The defense team also said the BOE violated its own standards by not mentioning the Warren campaign’s compliance with their request to return the money that allegedly violated rules.
Warren’s defense also argues the District attorney and BOE were “one in the same” in the investigation and it was more than just collaborating on the report. With that, he requested the court hold a fact finding hearing.
The defense also said the grand jury couldn’t have been unbiased with the scrutiny the mayor faced on the summer regarding Daniel Prude and the police response to protests. He requested the charges against Warren be dismissed in light of the “unique circumstances” in this case.
However, the prosecution said there is no such thing as protected politics class in regards to the equal protection clause argument. They also say media coverage means nothing in regards to the case being unfair
Mayor Warren has long been the focus of a New York State Board of Elections investigation into allegations of financial interactions between a political action committee that supported her re-election bid for mayor and her campaign committee.
According to 2017 expenditures of Warren’s political action committee, Warren for a Stronger Rochester PAC, $30,000 was transferred from the PAC to her committee, Friends of Lovely Warren.
Officials say the basis of this allegation is that the PAC was used to circumvent a limit set on campaign donations — the limit in 2017 was set at $8,557.
New York state has strict rules forbidding PACs and committees from coordinating. Warren’s campaign claims the money was earmarked for Friends of Lovely Warren, but was accidentally placed in the PAC account through a “PayPal error,” or a clerical mistake.
A conviction of a non-violent class E felony could result in a variety of sentences. The district attorney has said a maximum sentence would be one to four years in state prison, but there could also be probation, split sentences, or restitution in this case.