New York Times
by Noah Rosenberg
March 4, 2011
Pedro Espada Jr., the former State Senate majority leader who is facing federal corruption charges, strode into federal court in Brooklyn on Friday with a far different demeanor than he did four months ago.
In December, Mr. Espada was subdued as he was arraigned on charges of embezzlement and conspiracy. But on Friday he was smiling, exuded confidence and said he looked forward to proving his innocence.
At a pretrial hearing, Judge Frederic Block of Federal District Court set Sept. 12 as the date for Mr. Espada’s trial. Federal prosecutors also said they would file a superseding indictment this month with new charges against Mr. Espada.
Despite his coming trial and the potential that he may end up in prison, Mr. Espada burst through the courthouse doors after the hearing and proclaimed that he was “feeling great.”
“I have a great lawyer, and this is a great country,” said Mr. Espada, a Democrat who represented the Bronx in Albany.
Mr. Espada and his son Pedro Gautier Espada are accused of diverting money from the Soundview Healthcare Center, a nonprofit health care network controlled by the former senator, for their own benefit and for the use of family and friends.
Roger Burlingame, an assistant United States attorney and the deputy chief of his office’s public integrity unit, said the two men would also soon face new charges. Prosecutors have said they planned to charge the men with tax evasion.
Susan Necheles, a lawyer who is helping defend the men, insisted that the defense would not be seeking to be making any deals with prosecutors.
“We’re going to trial,” Ms. Necheles said.
During the hearing, which lasted about 10 minutes, Judge Block agreed to consider issuing a jury questionnaire, generally used to minimize juror bias, to provide “some comfort level” because, he said, the Espada case was one of “high publicity.”
Indeed, a crowd of reporters surrounded the elder Espada in the elevator and pressed him on his state of mind and his self-proclaimed innocence.
“I absolutely feel I’m innocent,” he said, only to be interrupted by Ms. Necheles.
“No,” she said, a smile on her face, “you know you’re innocent.”