By Miguel Lopez
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren pleaded guilty to campaign finance law violations and accepted a plea deal Tuesday, a conviction which will force her to resign as a Mayor of Rochester on December 1.
The plea deal was discussed between attorneys Monday morning, and will also cover the two other charges, a criminal possession of a firearm and child endangerment charge that her and her estranged husband Timothy Granison faced when police raided their home and found an unsecured firearm.
Warren’s resignation will see Deputy Mayor Justin Smith as Rochester’s Mayor for about a month; however, she was due to leave office at the end of December after being handily defeated by Common Counselor Malik Evans in the mayoral primaries earlier this year.
The two other co-defendants, Rosiland Brooks-Harris, who is also the City’s Finance Director, and Albert Jones Jr also pleaded guilty. Jones is Warren’s campaign treasurer. All 3 were convicted of a single campaign finance law crime, knowingly taking in donations from a political action committee beyond the 2017 legal limit of $8,557, although the District Attorney described the amount in question in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Warren’s Political Action Committee (PAC) has been reported to have made about $350,000. Both the defense and the prosecuting attorneys said they were ready to go to trial, which would have seen all 3 charged with a felony election law fraud, and a conviction which would have forced Warren to lose her law license.
There is still an attorney grievance committee that will meet to discuss that outcome.
While Warren had previously described the prosecution as a political witch hunt, she had no comment in court Tuesday but later released a statement saying she says she took the plea deal because it was in her and “her daughter’s best interest.”
Her attorney, Joseph Damelio believes there was no fraud involved and described the crime as bookkeeping and inadvertent errors.
“There is no fraud here,” Damelio said. “There’s no scheme here.”
Damelio says there was no evidence of any pay to play scheme, and that the people who donated to the PAC do not feel as though they’ve been cheated in any way. However, Rachel Barnhart, her 2017 mayoral opponent who brought the allegations to the attention of the New York State Board of elections, says that Mayor Warren was “allowed to raise well over $100,000 more than she was allowed from these donors because almost all of them had interests before the city.”
Judge Thomas Leone, visiting from Cayuga County, sentenced her and the 2 co-defendants to a 12-month conditional discharge, meaning that they could face more serious repercussions if they are rearrested for any offenses for the next year.
District Attorney Sandra Doorley, who was accused by Warren of being involved in her perceived witch hunt, called the resolution “fair and just” and said it was a crucial step in promoting ethical elections. “Moving forward, the ramifications of the mayor’s conduct spans beyond the criminal justice system. The Monroe County District Attorney’s Office is pleased that all three defendants are willing to take responsibility for their actions and admit their wrongdoing,” Doorley said.
This is seemingly the final chapter of Warren’s career as a Rochester politician, and although her management of Daniel Prude’s death has come under much scrutiny—which she is now being sued by former Police Chief Laron Singletary for—she was Rochester’s first woman ever elected as Rochester’s mayor, and one of the youngest ever.
Asked about the case, Evans said he was still processing the conviction and told Rochesterians to look to the future, not the past.