The Four Amigos – the band of New York State Senate Democrats who were instrumental in handing control of the Senate to Republicans in a wild power grab in 2009 – are now just one.
After a string of criminal prosecutions felled former Senators Carl Kruger, Hiram Monserrate and, Pedro Espada, Jr., who was convicted on four counts of fraud in Brooklyn federal court yesterday, the only member of the amigos still free from felony conviction, not to mention still in office, is Rubén Díaz, Sr., the Bronx preacher in the cowboy hat known for his outspokenness on same-sex marriage and really, anything else that springs to his mind.
Diaz says he’s not worried he will fall victim to the same fate as the others, and he faces no indictment or charges of wrongdoing. But Clement Gardner, the head of nonprofit agency Christian Community Benevolent Association, which Diaz founded, was indicted in March on a $75,000 embezzlement charge.
“There’s been persecution of all of us since the coup,” said Diaz in a phone interview, when I told him about the jury verdict in Espada’s trial.
“I never worry. I never worry. I am a pastor, I am a preacher, and my life is in the hands of my savior Jesus Christ,” he said.
But Diaz distrusts the Cuomo administration.
“Listen, listen, listen!” he said. “You know what they say is you could indict a ham and cheese sandwich if you want. People say that, yeah, they say you could indict a ham and cheese sandwich if you want!”
Diaz didn’t know if Espada was guilty or not — “I don’t know, I wasn’t there” — but he did think the case against him was a personal vendetta of the Cuomo administration.
“Why when he was the attorney general, why did he make a press conference and accuse Pedro Espada of stealing $14 million? And now, he’s indicted for only half a million, and the jury took two weeks to find him guilty, so that means that either Governor Cuomo lied when he said that Pedro Espada stole $14 million, or he overreacted or he did not know the laws,” Diaz said.
“I say that was personal to make sure that Pedro Espada lost his seat,” Diaz said. “I do know that after the government used all their power, all their resources, the jury took two weeks to decide. That means that they didn’t have a solid case,” he said.
Cuomo, who began the investigation when he was Attorney General, took the unusual step of issuing a press release when Espada’s conviction was announced yesterday, calling Espada “the prime example of government corruption.”
“Mr. Espada has made many accusations and comments about me since my actions began,” Cuomo wrote in the statement. “Today the jury spoke loud and clear making Mr. Espada a convicted felon.”
Memories of the coup seem to be fading fast. A new Siena poll out yesterday showed 56 percent of New York voters would like to see Democrats re-take control of the Senate, and some Democrats praised the Espada conviction as another step in burying the party’s sordid past.
“You really have a brand new conference with about half a dozen new members,” said one Albany Democratic insider, adding, “People seem to forget that the coup was actually started by Senate Republicans.”
Diaz, who said he is still friends with Espada and prayed with him last week, said he had “nothing to worry about” personally. “I’m a preacher. The Bible says that everything that’s going to happen, God knows. It’s already written. So why worry when something is already written, what is going to happen with your life?”
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