Presumptive Rochester Mayor Malik Evans says focus on future, not past after Warren plea deal

Local Politics

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Presumptive Rochester Mayor Malik Evans says he’s focusing on the future after Mayor Lovely Warren accepted a plea deal in court.

“I’m just learning about the information that’s coming out of the mayor’s trial,” Evans said. “We have to stay focused on making sure the city of Rochester continues to move forward.”

Terms of the plea deal included the mayor’s effective resignation date of December 1, 2021 — a month until she would be leaving office as Evans will be sworn into office come January.

“What I’m preparing for is a transition, but more importantly fulfilling my current role as a City Councilmember,” Evans said. “It’s all news to me today. I’m still processing the news. I have to continue to read to see what is outlined in the plea. I don’t know all of the legality as it relates to what was offered. I’m still processing it as are citizens in the community. My focus is on how we can move Rochester forward, which I’m looking forward to doing come January first.”

The mayor’s trial was scheduled to begin Monday for charges over alleged campaign finance violations that date back to her 2017 re-election campaign.

Warren, along with two assistants — Albert Jones Jr. and Rosiland Brooks-Harris— were accused of using a PAC to get around donation limits during her 2017 campaign. They were each facing two charges; scheme to defraud in the first degree, and violation of election law — both of which are class E felonies.

The mayor and her co-defendants ultimately accepted the terms of the plea deals.

Terms of the plea will also resolve another set of criminal charges the mayor is currently facing. Warren and her estranged husband, Timothy Granison, were each handed three different charges after a pistol and rifle were found in their home where their daughter was left alone in May.

The mayor is serving the remainder of what is presumptively her last term in office. She was defeated handedly by current City Councilmember Evans in this year’s Democratic primary, and she is not on the November ballot.

“I think Rochesterians are strong,” Evan said. Rochesterians are extremely resilient. Rochesterians want to see Rochester thrive and not just survive. I think that Rochester will continue to move forward and bounce back. It’s up to us in the community to focus on these challenges in our community. We have serious issues that we have to make sure we stay focused on, and that’s what I’m urging all the residents to do.

Warren’s attorney, Joe Damelio, says there was no missing money in this case, just a mistake as to where money was reported to be deposited.

“There was no scheme here, there was no fraud here, no one is missing any money,” Damelio said. “There was no scheme here, there was no fraud here. There was no attempt to defraud anyone. Everything was out in the open. Even the Political Action Committee — think about it: If you’re going to scam somebody and there’s a tool to use, an independent expenditure or a Political Action Community are you going to put it in your own name? Of course not; that was the mistake that they made.”

Warren was sworn in to the office in January 2014, and was re-elected in 2017. She was running for re-election this year, set to face off against City Councilmember Malik Evans in a Democratic primary on June 22. Evans will be sworn into office in the new year. Deputy Mayor James Smith will become acting mayor upon Warren’s effective resignation date on December 1.

“As a councilmember, I can tell you that we have to continue to work with the administration,” Evans said. “As someone who’s the presumptive mayor coming in, we have to continue to work with the administration. You have to remember, the residents in the City of Rochester have to be the main focus.”

The mayor said, on advice from her counsel, that she would refrain from commenting on the guilty plea Monday and she exited the courtroom without addressing reporters.

A handwritten letter of resignation from the mayor is due to be turned in later Monday.

Prior to being mayor, Warren served on Rochester City Council from 2007 through 2013, and was elected as Council President in 2010, becoming the youngest person to hold that position in the Council’s history.

Warren was the first female, and youngest Rochester mayor in modern times. She was born and raised in the city’s 19th Ward Neighborhood.

Activists and protesters called for Warren’s resignation after details regarding Daniel Prude’s death came to light.

The circumstances of Prude’s death were not made public until September of 2020, six months after it happened. The body camera footage and the delay sparked protests in Rochester and beyond.

Public disagreements between Warren and then-Police Chief La’Ron Singletary highlighted the controversies brought up by city hall’s handling of the case. That culminated in a nearly nine-hour deposition in which Singletary disputed the mayor’s claims regarding Prude’s death and the six-month delay between when it happened and when the public was notified.

An independent City Council investigation concluded that key City of Rochester officials “knowingly suppressed” information about Prude’s death, and said the ultimate decision to not disclose the death of Prude to the public was that of Mayor Lovely Warren, but it fell short of saying she was solely responsible.

Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart (D-21), who lost to Warren in the 2017 mayoral primary, was one of the first to raise concerns over Warren’s campaign spending. Barnhart issued the following statement Monday:

“Our democracy depends on fair elections. Both of Lovely Warren’s opponents raised this issue in 2017 and were ignored. Public corruption cannot be tolerated, and we have a lot of work to do at the state and local level to ensure ethical conduct. For starters, we need a New York State Board of Elections that enforces the law. I am glad to see a resolution that includes accountability.”

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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