Former Halfmoon Supervisor Melinda Wormuth spoke candidly with FBI agents and brought them copies of six checks donors made to her political campaign, even though she was never formally taken into custody, federal prosecutors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Duncan said the three agents who interviewed Wormuth on four occasions between Aug. 7 and 14, 2013 never needed to read her a Miranda warning because she “freely consented to interviews with federal agents on multiple occasions.” A warrant for her arrest wasn’t even obtained until more than two months later, according to the government’s response to Wormuth’s motion to suppress evidence in her influence peddling case.
Federal prosecutors also flatly denied Wormuth’s claim that investigators searched or copied information from her Lincoln Navigator during one of her meetings with agents at an Albany hotel. They did, however, agree to a suppression hearing, noting there are “mixed questions of fact and law” in the case.
Duncan also claims the legal instructions to the grand jury in Wormuth’s case shouldn’t need to be disclosed because jurors didn’t need to be alerted of an entrapment defense.
Defense attorney E. Stewart Jones has raised issues with interactions Wormuth had with agents, which apparently show they persuaded her to lobby local state legislators for the legalization of mixed martial arts.
“Quite simply, the government was not required to instruct the grand jury on the defense of entrapment,” Duncan wrote. “Although entrapment may be offered as a defense in a criminal trial, prosecutors have no obligation to present all possible defenses to the grand jury.”
The government’s response filed Wednesday also includes an affidavit from Timothy Coll, a special agent who met with Wormuth on all four occasions. Among other things, Coll said Wormuth never asked for a lawyer and was never presented with an arrest warrant during any of the meetings.
Coll said Wormuth did initially become “defiant and angry” with agents after they raided a room at the Hampton Inn and Suites where she was meeting with an undercover agent she believed to be a mixed martial arts promoter paying her money for using her political position to advocate for the sport. Coll and two other agents presented Wormuth with a search warrant for her smartphone and a verbal summary of the evidence against her in the hope of “gaining her cooperation in other public corruption matters.”
But Wormuth refused to believe the agent or the validity of the search warrant, Coll stated in the affidavit. Instead, she clutched the device in her arms, refusing to relinquish it to the agents.
“Again I told her that I possessed a court order to seize the smartphone. I told her that if she did not provide the smartphone pursuant to the court order I would handcuff her,” he wrote. “Wormuth then shoved the smartphone across the table to me. Wormuth was never handcuffed.”
Wormuth met agents at the FBI’s field office in Albany the following day, agreeing to cooperate with the investigation, according to Coll. On Aug. 12, 2013, she returned to the office with copies of six checks made payable to “Friends of Mindy Wormuth” — the fundraising committee for her run for supervisor.
“There was no arrest warrant or indictment,” Coll stated. “Wormuth was free to go and she did depart on her own.”
Wormuth met with agents again at the Hampton Inn on Aug. 14, 2013 and conducted a 55-minute interview that was recorded. Wormuth called Coll once and then met with him on a fifth occasion that month, during which he presented her with a plea agreement and advised her to get an attorney, according to the affidavit.
Wormuth is accused of using town letterhead to urge Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, and state Sen. Kathy Marchione, R- Halfmoon, to support the legalization of MMA. She allegedly received $7,000 in three separate payments from a promoter for trying to peddle her influence, which also included urging county supervisors to support professional MMA.
While under federal scrutiny, Wormuth allegedly admitted to cashing thousands of dollars in checks for her campaign fund without accounting for the money.
State investigators later determined she misused $6,250 in contributions after losing the Republican endorsement in April 2013.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for March 19. Wormuth’s trial was initially scheduled for this winter, but was postponed to a later date.