The federal corruption trial of City Councilman Larry Seabrook continued on Monday after the Thanksgiving break. Today’s NY Post and NY Times had carried decidedly different takes on the testimony of prosecution witness and alleged Seabrook mistress, Gloria Jones-Grant.
The NY Post breathlessly reported that Jones-Grant “stunned” prosecutors by recanting her account of the alleged kickback scheme, insisting: “I don’t recall saying that.” The Post compared her change in testimony to that of Leon Eastmond, who denied giving Seabrook’s political club $50,000 in an alleged kickback scheme.
The NY Times, however, gave no indication that Jones-Grant denied participating in the alleged kickback. Instead, the Times reported that she admitted to instances when “she gave him [Seabrook] part of the money she received from her employers.” The Times noted that she ” appeared to flummox prosecutors” by saying she could not recall what she had done with $6700 in checks made out to cash.
Both papers agreed that Jones-Grant claimed that money she gave Seabrook “was part of an effort to repay an $18,000 loan” from him. The late great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa would be proud to see that Rashomon remains relevant today.
According to prosecutors, Ms. Jones-Grant was a busy woman. Besides running the African American Civic and Legal Hall of Fame and NEBRC, she had consulting gigs with Leon Eastmond, Congress Pharmacy and Friends of Kevin McAdams (In 2004, McAdams was a Westchester Republican-turned Democrat who challenged Rep. Eliot Engel). All of which the government claims was arranged by CM Seabrook.
Jones-Grant is expected to face cross-examination today. The trial is expected to wrap up in the next few days.
Last Updated:3:29 AM, November 29, 2011
Posted:12:23 AM, November 29, 2011
She’s standing by her guy.
City Councilman Larry Seabrook’s former mistress appeared to be suffering from selective amnesia yesterday as prosecutors forced her to testify at the Bronx Democrat’s corruption trial.
Gloria Jones-Grant — who admitted having an “intimate relationship” with the married pol between 2004 and 2007 — repeatedly rejected suggestions that Seabrook shook her down for kickbacks after he lined up lucrative consulting work for her.
Jones-Grant even denied confessing the alleged kickback scheme to federal investigators just last month, insisting: “I don’t recall saying that.”
The unexpected testimony — which visibly startled prosecutor Brent Wible — marked the second time a prosecution witness veered off script after being called to testify against Seabrook.
On Day One of the Manhattan federal court trial, boiler-company owner Leon Eastmond denied any “quid pro quo” involving about $50,000 he gave Seabrook’s political club and that Seabrook helped him land a lucrative contract for the new Yankee Stadium.
Jones-Grant appeared in court after being subpoenaed and granted immunity so she couldn’t invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating herself in Seabrook’s alleged crimes.
She specifically admitted forging signatures on sublease agreements that prosecutors say Seabrook used to soak cash from council “slush” funds by secretly boosting the rent on space adjacent to his district office in The Bronx.
Jones-Grant also identified Seabrook’s handwriting on a budget proposal submitted to the city on behalf of a nonprofit the feds say was among several that Seabrook secretly controlled to provide taxpayer-funded jobs for friends and family.
In court papers filed this month, prosecutors said Jones-Grant was expected to testify that she paid Seabrook “cash kickbacks” after he helped her get a host of consulting jobs between 2002 and 2004.
But yesterday she said the money she gave “Councilman Seabrook” was “to repay a loan” and “to repay the money that I owed him.”
At one point, Jones-Grant said she owed Seabrook $18,000, but didn’t explain why.
The admission prompted Seabrook’s wife, Maria Diaz — who’s attended every day of the trial — to turn toward reporters on the other side of the courtroom and dramatically arch her eyebrows.
Diaz declined to comment afterward, and Seabrook’s defense lawyers wouldn’t discuss Jones-Grant’s claims.
“It will come out during cross-examination,” lawyer Edward Wilford said.
Jones-Grant — who served as executive director of three nonprofits prosecutors have tied to Seabrook — also denied telling investigators that Seabrook demanded cash as his preferred means of payment.
“Did you say you gave him cash because that’s what he asked for?” Wible asked.
“I do not recall that,” she said.
Woman Gave Councilman Part of Her Pay, She Testifies
A woman who had a romantic relationship with City Councilman Larry B. Seabrook testified on Monday that in instances in which she was hired as a consultant based on Mr. Seabrook’s recommendation, she gave him part of the money she received from her employers.
The woman, Gloria Jones-Grant, also testified that she was paid even when she failed to do the agreed-upon work. In one case, she said, she was hired byArlington Leon Eastmond, a Bronx businessman whom Mr. Seabrook helped secure a contract to install boilers at the new Yankee Stadium. Her task was to go to an engineering conference to try to persuade attendees to use boilers of the sort that Mr. Eastmond manufactured. Even though she never made it to the conference, she was still paid her fee of $2,500, she testified.
The testimony by Ms. Jones-Grant came toward the end of the federal government’s corruption case against Mr. Seabrook, a Democrat from the Bronx, and it is likely to play a major part in the trial, in United States District Court in Manhattan. She was on the stand for about 90 minutes on Monday and is expected to resume testimony on Tuesday.
Her testimony directly followed the approval of an immunity agreement by Judge Robert P. Patterson under which prosecutors agreed not to use her statements in court against her as long as she testified truthfully.
Ms. Jones-Grant told jurors on Monday that she had given part of her consulting payments from at least two groups to Mr. Seabrook in cash. But she was vague at times about how much she had given to the councilman, and she often punctuated her testimony with long pauses.
Her testimony is expected to be relevant because she served as the executive director of three nonprofit organizations connected to Mr. Seabrook. Prosecutors said that the councilman secured government financing for those groups and then used them to distribute money to himself and others, including Ms. Jones-Grant.
Soon after Ms. Jones-Grant took the stand, a prosecutor, Brent Wible, asked her to state the nature of her relationship with Mr. Seabrook.
“It was an intimate relationship,” she said.
Although her testimony on Monday did not tie Mr. Seabrook directly to unlawful behavior, she acknowledged that he used his influence to help her and admitted that she had committed forgery while running the nonprofit groups.
Prosecutors displayed two sublease agreements from 2005 in which two groups led by Ms. Jones-Grant rented office space from another nonprofit group connected to Mr. Seabrook, the African-American Bronx Unity Day Parade. In both instances, Ms. Jones-Grant testified, she had signed the agreements on behalf of the groups she headed — the Northeast Bronx Redevelopment Corporation and the African-American Civic and Legal Hall of Fame — and forged the signature of an official from the Unity Day Parade.
Before she began running the two groups, Ms. Jones-Grant testified, Mr. Seabrook arranged for her to have consulting jobs with each organization.
He also helped her get consulting work with Congress Pharmacy in the Bronx and with the Friends of Kevin McAdams, a political organization supporting a candidate for the House, she said in court.
At times, Ms. Jones-Grant appeared to flummox prosecutors; at one point, she testified that she did not remember what she had done with $6,700 in checks made out to cash that were written on her own account in April 2003. She also testified that she had given Mr. Seabrook just $500 of the $7,000 she received from Mr. McAdams’s campaign, then volunteered that her payment was part of an effort to repay an $18,000 loan from Mr. Seabrook.
At one point, Mr. Wible referred to the money that Ms. Jones-Grant had received from Mr. Eastmond and asked if she remembered telling investigators that she had given half of that amount to Mr. Seabrook.
“I don’t recollect that I said about half,” she replied.
See also “Seabrook Corruption Trial Missing Mistress” here.
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