More details emerged publicly Wednesday about the influence-peddling allegations against former Halfmoon Supervisor Melinda Wormuth, as parts of videotaped meetings with her were played in a courtroom.
In the video, Wormuth disputed how much money she received in one payment for using her position as Halfmoon supervisor for personal gain, but she knew what she did with it.
She didn’t deposit the $3,000 — she thought it closer to $2,000 — in a bank, instead spending it on clothes and other items.
She told the FBI this in her fourth meeting with them over allegations that she had improperly used her position to promote mixed martial arts as a sport in New York.
Agents met Wormuth at the Hampton Inn in Colonie for the purpose of consolidating statements she’d made in three prior meetings with agents on a video.
At another point in the session, Wormuth admitted she took the money from someone she believed was a promoter of MMA.
“What was the payment for?” the agent asks in the video.
“To write letters to promote MMA in New York state,” Wormuth responded.
Portions of the video were played in U.S. District Court in Albany on Wednesday at a hearing where the now-former Halfmoon supervisor’s defense attorney argued the recorded statement and others she made to agents in the influence-peddling case should be thrown out.
Attorney E. Stewart Jones contends that agents improperly questioned her at their first meeting, Aug. 7, 2013, and that this tainted all subsequent meetings.
Federal prosecutors contend each of the meetings was properly conducted and her statements are admissible at trial.
Also Wednesday, a new trial date was set for Wormuth: Sept. 21. Chief Judge Gary L. Sharpe is to preside. He is to also rule on Wormuth’s statements, and indicated Wednesday that he would do so after further submissions from attorneys.
Testifying at Wednesday’s hearing was FBI Special Agent Timothy Coll, who told of how the operation progressed. She was charged after an undercover operation determined that she had accepted the money in exchange for writing letters in support of MMA in her official capacity.
Wormuth’s actions during the operations were recorded. The sting ended Aug. 7, 2013, with a meeting at the Hampton Inn with the undercover agent she believed was an MMA promoter paying her to use her political position to promote the sport.
She was initially was “defiant and angry,” but she wasn’t under arrest or in custody, said Coll, who seized her cellphone under provisions of a search warrant.
Her demeanor was different the next day, when she went to retrieve her phone, Coll said. She was cooperative and said she wanted to help herself and tell the truth.
She spoke with agents then and again the next Monday. She also brought copies of three checks written to her campaign.
State investigators later determined she misused $6,250 in contributions after losing the Republican endorsement for supervisor in April 2013. She was charged in state court in connection with the checks.
The video was recorded by agents Aug. 14, 2013, in a room at the Hampton Inn. She admitted to taking the money and then writing a letter under a town letterhead to urge Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, and state Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, to support the legalization of MMA.
She said in the video she used text provided by the promoter and had her town secretary prepare the letters on town letterhead and send them.
She said she asked an attorney connected with the town if what she was doing was OK, and said she received approval. She was vague, however, about what exactly she told the attorney.
She also initially told investigators one attorney’s name, then changed it to the person she said was the actual attorney she spoke with.
The second attorney, the agent pointed out, took part in crafting town ethics rules that prohibited receipt of gifts over $75.
Wormuth resigned as Halfmoon supervisor in November 2013, just over a month before her term was to end. She did not seek re-election that year after losing the Republican endorsement.
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Categories: News, Schenectady County