Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse to Plead Guilty in Federal Court

Bill: It’s gonna be good for the City of Cohoes to move on and to have the opportunity to start healing. And if it’s a plea deal, it’s probably gonna be pretty good for Shawn Morse as well. I think it’s probably a win-win thing if he takes the plea and steps down sooner rather than later.

George: That’s Bill Keeler, retired State Police Major, who beat Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse in the Democratic primary in June, and will become the new mayor eventually. And we’re joined now by our legal analyst, Paul Harding from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Paul, how are you doing?

Paul: I’m doing well. Good morning, George. Good morning, Chuck.

George: So, the Cohoes mayor Shawn Morse is gonna be in court today, U.S. District Court in Binghamton. It’s expected according to reports he’s gonna plead guilty to one count, he had been accused of stealing campaign funds. Do you get the impression that because he’s accepting a plea deal at this stage, the trial is set to begin next month, that no jail time would be involved?

Paul: Well, that is not my indication, no jail time, but I do believe that this is gonna happen today. He’s gonna plead to a single charge. Each of the charges carry a maximum over one year, and so whatever he’s gonna plead to, I think we’re not gonna see probation, I think we’re gonna see a small jail sentence, probably up to about one year.

Chuck: That’s a surprise, definitely.

George: Well, at least to me, but I, yeah. I’m just a layman, though. So, yeah, so you thought…I was wondering if… So, when you take a deal like that and you said, like, the sentences are a little over a year, it would still, I guess… What would you read into it, that the evidence is so strong against him that he would still take a deal that could lead to prison time?

Paul: You know, it’s like… So, when you take a plea, it always feels like you’re doing something that’s gonna maybe kinda launch you out of this thing. Gotta say, “Look, it was my fault, made a mistake, and I’m gonna get super lenient here.” When you’ve got a case that has got so much media attention and it’s been something that involves the public trust, those cases, historically, it is nearly unprecedented that someone’s gonna have just a probation plea, you know? And we don’t know what he’s gonna plead to. I guess that’s Rick, right? So, we don’t know how strong or weak the case was against him. We all perceived that this case was super strong. We’ve got a co-defendant who’s ready to testify against him, someone who already pled out, but maybe something kinda fell apart on the government side and I may be wrong about this, but based on what I know, I think that’s what we’re gonna find out if he’s gonna be doing jail time.

Chuck: Yeah, we know it’s the one charge. I’m curious why just the one because I know there’s multiple levels to this, but does that still mean that, you know, full prosecution of the other charges is still coming?

Paul: No, it just means he’s gonna wrap up all the charges and he’s gonna plead to something. You know, the prevailing conversation is he’s gonna plead to one, I’m not sure exactly why we all think that’s the case, you know, but I guess maybe just, that was just a conversation that somebody had and we all just kinda went with it. So, we don’t know if he’s pleading, what he’s pleading to. We think it’s one charge, it could be two charges, but no, it will wrap everything up, it will all be done today, federal court in Binghamton, and then we’ll await that sentence.

George: Yeah, and I think our assumption is, and it’s never good to assume, that’s based on original reporting done, Brendan Lyons of “The Times Union.” Real quickly, I wanted to ask you, we don’t have a whole lot of time, but Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who’s involved in the chokehold case against Eric Garner who died on the streets of New York selling illegal cigarettes, he’s been now fired by New York State Police. His attorneys are appealing. Given the fact that a grand jury looked at this, the Department of Justice looked at it, that the EMTs were faulted for not giving care quickly enough, does this guy have a chance of getting his job back?

Paul: Well, you know, when you start talking about unions in New York City and police, I guess anything’s possible, but at this point, they did an internal investigation. The IA investigation kinda came back and the judge there said he should be fired. The police commissioner O’Neill said, “I agree,” although he really was in [inaudible 00:03:29] when he was delivering that news live, first time that the defendant found out about it, that he was gonna be fired. But you could tell that it was one of those things that he just felt that he had to do what the judge wants to do. And at this point, fired, loses his retirement benefits, he’s gonna appeal. But again, I don’t think he’s gonna come back on the job. I’m not sure exactly why he’d wanna come back on the job with what the rest of his career would look like, but yeah, there’s an appeal pending. My guess is the appeal has to do something with his long-term benefits.

Chuck: And then even, oh. So, even if that did happen, though, then if a lawsuit comes from his end to the city, then he might have a good case there, though?

Paul: Yeah, he may. You know, again, lawsuits against the city, you know, for the death. You know, he’s protected under that. But I think probably what he’s gonna try to do is just try to work out something a little better financially for him in the future.

George: WGY legal analyst Paul Harding from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, 1-800-LAW-1010. Paul, thanks so much.

Paul: You’re welcome. Talk later, guys.

George: Have a great day.