Courage Without a Conviction
“…it is time to draw some useful distinctions that people like “Reform" Brooklyn District Leader Lincoln Restler seem bent upon ignoring.
Always a forward thinker, Restler became the first pol to call for the resignations of Assemblyman William Boyland and State Senator Carl Kruger in the wake of the criminal complaints filed against them.
“The charges against Senator Carl Kruger and Assemblyman William Boyland are a sad reflection of the corrupt Brooklyn Democratic machine,” said Restler “As the Chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Committee, Vito Lopez consistently supports candidates focused on self-enrichment, rather than the needs of our struggling neighborhoods. We need honest leadership in Albany, Senator Kruger and Assemblyman Boyland should resign their seats immediately.”
Now, let me be clear, I have no strong feeling about Junior Boyland, aside from disclosing my begrudging and perhaps unfathomable fondness for his sister Tracy (though it did not stop me from endorsing Velmanette Montgomery against her for State Senate), and noting that Junior seems both pleasant, and perhaps lighter in some matters of his weight than in his girth….
…But, unlike others, including not only Restler, but Kruger, I have an aversion to joining everyone else in playing “Johnny-on-a-pony” and treating those who are down as a piñata.
Perhaps it’s my contrarian personality, but I yield to no one in my respect for the presumption of innocence.
Yes, I can hardly disagree that the standards the justice system maintains concerning the burden of proof for criminal liability may not necessarily be the same as each individual voter’s standards for fitness to hold public office.
But Kruger’s lack of fitness for office was established long ago, and the voters of his district have consistently felt otherwise.
The stupid saps.
Perhaps those voters will get the opportunity to judge Kruger again, in a trial we call democracy, where the standard for punishment is somewhat less stringent than guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
I can’t wait.
When that time comes, I assure you that, as in the past, I will be among the loudest calling for the removal of Carl Kruger from politics.
Until then, though, guilt beyond a reasonable doubt would seem to be the operative standard for Kruger’s removal.
So Lincoln Restler should just shut up.
Interestingly, Restler’s club, “New Kings Democrats” is composed largely of people who backed Howard Dean for President. During Dean’s campaign for President, he was ridiculed for stating his belief that even Osama bin Laden was entitled to a fair trial before we pronounced sentence.
But aiding and abetting the slaughter of thousands of innocents is one thing; being a Brooklyn hack who is the subject of a criminal complaint is apparently quite another.
Silly me for assuming that a person, whether an Islamo-fascist terrorist accused of mass murder, or even a Brooklyn hack accused of being a Brooklyn hack, was presumed innocent until proven guilty….
…I also note that legislative bodies do have an independent obligation to police and sometimes remove their members (even for reasons which do not involve criminal charges), after a fact-finding hearing(s), even while keeping in mind that removal of someone duly elected by the voters is a power not to be the taken lightly. But, even when justified, such proceedings must, in cases where criminal charges are pending, defer to the judicial process, because to require a member to defend both proceeding at once would jeopardize their Fifth Amendment rights.
Keeping all this in mind, Restler has gone a bridge too far.
He’s not even consistent. Upon Restler’s election as Leader, there was already a member of the State Senate from Kings County under indictment for a felony, yet no one can find any statement by Restler calling for Kevin Parker’s removal.
In Restler’s defense, since that time, Parker was acquitted of a felony and convicted of a misdemeanor. However, given Restler‘s harsh stance on the matter of criminal complaints, he now has two choices; he call now call upon Parker to resign as well (something which I think can be argued either way) or he can say that Parker’s acquittal upon felony charges, and conviction for a misdemeanor only, is not sufficient under the circumstances to justify expulsion.
Of course, if he does that, he only confirms that the operative standard is not the filing of a felony complaint, but an actual felony conviction. And an actual felony conviction requires either a guilty plea or a trial, neither of which has yet occurred (and may never occur) in the matters of Kruger or Boyland.
I was similarly harsh on Chris Owens for a similar, but more nuanced, statement, and I stand by every word (well, almost every word; I’m glad Bin Laden got killed without a trial—and it would not shock me if most of Restler’s club felt differently).
But let me be clear, I am not gloating. I decidedly do not regard the not guilty verdict for Boyland as a vindication of my position.
Except on the extremely crucial matters of timing, and respect for due process, where Restler was stone cold dead fucking wrong, and in some small details like the tangential matter of Vito Lopez (no particular ally of Boyland) being in any way responsible for Boyland, it is Restler (and to a lesser extent Owens) who has been vindicated by the evidence essayed at trial and the news stories which have come in the wake of Boyland’s indictment.
If, as we must, we accept the Boyland verdict as correct, then it is living proof of Kinsley’s first rule of scandals:
“The real scandal is what’s legal.”
Despite showing not the slightest talent or energy for government, Boyland (D-Brooklyn) bumbled his way into the Legislature — and managed to squat there, undisturbed, for eight long years.
You could call the movie of his life “Not Being There,” in honor of his long résumé of no-show and little-show jobs. Or better yet, “Occupy Albany: How to Succeed in Politics Without Really Trying.”…
…What we can only hope is the final scene of this farce is unfolding even now in Manhattan Federal Court, where Boyland stands accused of accepting $175,000 in payoffs through a sham consulting deal with a hospital chain in his district.
Prosecutors allege that he performed no actual work for that money — other than trying, with minimal success, to shake the Albany money tree for his employer, the MediSys Health Network.
Far from denying that he took the cash, Boyland’s defense attorney Richard Rosenberg spun the transaction as “a goodwill arrangement.”
MediSys Health Network hired Boyland — the son and nephew of well-known pols — “to be the name and the face of an outreach to a community and to build trust,” Rosenberg claimed.
Not to prejudge Boyland’s guilt or innocence, but how is that okay? He’s supposed to be representing the people of his district, not a serving as a paid pitchman for an organization that’s heavily dependent on state funding.
Also laughable, when you know the back story, is the idea of Boyland as a symbol of trustworthiness.
According to testimony at the trial, Boyland held what evolved into a no-show job for MediSys even before he got into elected office.
His political career began with a fraud against democracy — when his father, William Boyland Sr., bequeathed him the Assembly seat in 2003 as if it were family property...
…Boyland Sr. resigned the post as soon as he took the oath of office in January 2003 — admitting at the time that he had run for reelection with the intention of quitting so his son could take over.
The plot worked like a charm. The next month, it took fewer than 1,200 votes for Junior to win a joke of a special election marked by pathetic turnout of 2.5%.
Anyone who thought the younger Boyland would grow into the job was sorely mistaken.
He didn’t bother introducing a single piece of legislation in either 2010 or 2011.
As the Daily News’ Glenn Blain reported this year, he also posted one of the worst absentee records in the Legislature this year — missing fully a third of the Assembly’s 60 session days.
And even when he did bother to show up, he was caught spending much of his time fiddling with Facebook games on his computer.
But there’s more.
There’s no doubt where Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. was March 10: Cameras caught him at the Manhattan federal courthouse, where he surrendered to face corruption charges.
The paperwork he submitted to bill state taxpayers for his travel expenses tells a different story.
Boyland filed for a $165 per diem payment—the amount lawmakers get to cover food, lodging and travel when they perform their duties more than 50 miles from their home districts.
Boyland was in Manhattan all day, about eight miles from his home in Brownsville, Brooklyn, say sources close to his criminal case. Yet he claimed $959.99 in reimbursements for the week, and an Assembly finance department employee signed and approved the form March 31.
It was not a one-time discrepancy for Boyland, who has the Assembly’s worst attendance record—and submitted expenses on 22 days he was recorded as absent. Boyland has claimed reimbursements for being in Albany while his Facebook comments revealed him to be elsewhere—including North Carolina…
…Over the past decade, Assembly members have billed taxpayers for more than $23 million in travel-related expenses. Boyland has received more than $212,000 since he was first elected in 2002, claiming $35,000 last year on top of his $79,500 salary.
Boyland claimed he went to Albany almost every week of the year, despite having attended session just 20 days out of 60. From September 2010 to July 2011, he claimed he’d spent at least 177 days in transit to Albany.
On Facebook, however, Boyland left a different trail. At 7:50 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 24, he wrote on the social networking site that he was in North Carolina with his family after a reunion weekend in Virginia. Yet his expense report filed later in the week claimed he drove 175 miles from Brooklyn to Albany that day, too.
Four days later, he told his Facebook friends about a campaign fund-raiser in Brooklyn that night, and many of them wrote back to thank him for it. His expense forms claim he was still in Albany that night, however, and returned to Brooklyn the following day—allowing him $956.50 in reimbursements for the week.
Junior got his due process, and I’m happy for him and his family (who are a pretty likeable bunch, in a roguish sort of way). Junior Boyland has been judged to not have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be a criminal.
Junior was charged with taking a bribe in the form of a no-show “job.” Clearly Boyland did not regard the “job” as a bribe, but rather as his entitlement as Prince of Whales for the Royal Family of Brownsville.
Rather than being a “no show,” Boyland treated the hospital “job” with exactly the same level of seriousness he did his position on the Assembly.
One guesses that the jury watched Junior staring out into space, blithely unaware, and determined that he was too dumb to steal.
Call it “The Rain Man Defense.”
Clearly, Boyland does not belong in a jail cell.
But even more clearly, he does not belong in the State Legislature.
Now that justice has been served, and Junior Boyland’s culpability for Federal crimes has failed to be proven, it is the proper time to call for Junior Boyland’s resignation from the State Assembly so that the Brownsville Assembly seat which has been vacant since he assumed it in 2003 can at last be filled.
The question remains, will Lincoln Restler still have the courage of his convictions now that there has been no conviction?
That would take real guts.
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