Suit claims Kavadas obtained illegal signatures

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The Democratic ballot for those gunning for City Councilman John Liu’s (D-Flushing) seat was nearly set Tuesday, but Constantine Kavadas remained locked in a court battle that could threaten his candidacy in the six-way race.

Dueling lawsuits from District 20 candidates Yen Chou and James Wu were each withdrawn in Queens Civil Court Tuesday morning in Jamaica, but a fraud case brought against Kavadas appeared destined for days of testimony.

In the lawsuit, Democratic candidate Isaac Sasson’s attorney, Sarah Steiner, alleges that Kavadas’ campaign allowed District 20 residents to sign multiple petitions for people other than themselves and his candidacy should be invalidated as a result.

Steiner said she was prepared to call a handwriting expert who has poured over all of Kavadas’ 1,067 signatures and multiple witnesses to the stand to prove her case to Civil Court Judge Patricia Satterfield.

Thumbing through a packet of evidence several inches thick, Satterfield seemed pessimistic.

“All of the evidence in this case needs to be presented by 11 a.m. Thursday. It is now Tuesday,” Satterfield said, noting she must make a ruling by Thursday afternoon. “Can you do it?”

But Kavadas’ attorney, Angela Johnson, who was retained Monday night, countered that she was not presented with all the evidence in the case prior to appearing before Satterfield Tuesday.

“At this point, I don’t even know what she’s alleging is fraudulent,” Johnson said. “How can I defend my client?”

Later in the day, Satterfield rejected Johnson’s argument and agreed to hear the case. As of press time the case had been adjourned until Wednesday morning and a ruling must be rendered by the end of the day Thursday.

Two floors below, Chou and Wu each withdrew their lawsuits against one another after the first of four challenges to Wu’s petitions was shot down by Judge Allan Weiss shortly before noon.

Chou’s attorney, Lawrence Mandelker, had alleged various irregularities and faults in Wu’s petitions, but had the first of four challenges he brought before Weiss thrown out for not filing in a timely manner.

After a brief conference with Weiss, Mandelker and Wu’s attorney, Leo Glickman, agreed to withdraw all further pending litigation. Wu had prepared a fraud case against Chou that alleged she paid senior citizens to sign her petitions, but none of the dozens of witnesses his attorneys subpoenaed appeared in court.

“The judge basically said you guys are going to be spending a lot of money here,” Mandelker said. “Shouldn’t this be settled on the street? So we agreed that who the better candidate is should be resolved at the ballot box.”

A campaign lawyer for Wu, Darryl Fox, said the decision was a victory for his campaign.

“The bottom line is, they came here today telling everyone they were going to knock us off the ballot and they got thrown out of court,” Fox said. “We had a case, but our witnesses are not here. We’re not going to forcibly drag a group of elderly people into court.”

The end to the litigation means both Chou and Wu join S.J. Jung, John Choe and Isaac Sasson as the five Democrats on the ballot for the Sept. 15 primary election thus far.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 6:32 pm, October 10, 2011
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