Saturday, October 21, 2006
DA Drops Charges; Feldman To Testify Against Norman
by Tom Perrotta
In a highly unusual move, prosecutors in Brooklyn yesterday dismissed all charges against Jeffrey C. Feldman, who was to stand trial for grand larceny next month in a case that accused him and former Assemblyman Clarence Norman of coercing two judicial candidates to hire favored vendors.
At a four-minute hearing yesterday before Acting Supreme Court Justice Martin Marcus (See Profile), Assistant District Attorney Michael F. Vecchione said that Mr. Feldman, the longtime executive director of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, "was nothing more than a messenger" for Mr. Norman.
Mr. Vecchione said Mr. Feldman had agreed to testify against Mr. Norman and was "fully cooperating" on "other ongoing cases."
But unlike most defendants who reach an agreement with prosecutors, Mr. Feldman did not have to plead guilty to a lesser charge. Nor will he have to wait until the end of Mr. Norman's trial, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 6, before prosecutors ask that the charges against him be dismissed. His bail was exonerated at the hearing.
Mr. Feldman's attorney, Benjamin Brafman of Brafman & Associates, characterized the agreement as "a letter of understanding," not a cooperation agreement.
"He's not pleading guilty to anything," Mr. Brafman said.
He added: "I am delighted by the district attorney's decision to dismiss the charges and very pleased that after substantial effort by us on behalf of Mr. Feldman, they ultimately accepted the proposition that he did not, in fact, commit a crime."
Mr. Vecchione declined to comment outside the courtroom.
Neither side would address the ultimate question for those who have been following District Attorney Charles J. Hynes' investigation of the Brooklyn judiciary: Would Mr. Feldman be able to provide prosecutors with information or testimony to support Mr. Hynes' allegations that judgeships in Brooklyn were bought?
One source familiar with Brooklyn judicial politics, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Feldman knew every detail of the party's workings when it came to judgeships.
"Any judge who has done something they shouldn't have could be nervous," the source said. "Nothing happened that he didn't know about, good or bad."
In November 2003, Mr. Hynes' office unsealed a 22-count indictment against Messrs. Norman and Feldman alleging grand larceny, coercion and conspiracy.
According to the indictment, the two men demanded in 2002 that two party-endorsed Civil Court candidates each raise $100,000 to $150,000 to finance a joint, boroughwide campaign.
They also allegedly told the candidates, incumbent Judge Karen B. Yellen and Housing Court Judge Marcia Sikowitz, to pay thousands of dollars for a get-out-the-vote operation. The former candidates, who are expected to testify in the upcoming trial, complied to varying degrees. Neither was successful in winning a seat on the bench.
After the indictment was unsealed, Messrs. Norman and Feldman said through their attorneys that they had merely sought to impose discipline on the campaign.
Mr. Norman, the former leader of the Democratic Party in Brooklyn, has faced three previous corruption cases and has been convicted in two of them. He faces 2 to 6 years in prison if his convictions are upheld on appeal.