Today’s news:

GOP operative guilty of bilking mayor

TimesLedger Newspapers

Queens political operative John Haggerty was sprung from jail Saturday after posting $250,000 bail but faces up to 15 years in prison after he was found guilty Friday by a Manhattan jury of grand larceny and money laundering after being accused of stealing $1.1 million from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Ronald Zweibel set Haggerty’s bail at $250,000 shortly after the verdict and Haggerty was released from jail Saturday, according to city Department of Corrections data.

Prosecutors requested $500,000 bail while Haggerty’s lawyers asked that no bail be set, arguing that the Republican campaign adviser had shown up at every court appearance and should not be considered a flight risk.

But the assistant district attorney’s office said it was concerned Haggerty might try to leave the country, pointing to an e-mail he wrote to a Bloomberg campaign employee in which he said he had an Irish passport.

Ireland does not have an extradition agreement with the United States.

Haggerty said the statement was a joke and prosecutors could not produce proof that he actually had such a passport.

After nearly two days of deliberations, the Manhattan Supreme Court jury found that Haggerty misled Bloomberg’s 2009 re-election campaign by using most of the $1.1 million to buy out his brother’s share of their late father’s Forest Hills Gardens home rather than spending it on a ballot security operation.

The jury acquitted Haggerty of the most serious charge, first-degree grand larceny, but convicted him of second-degree grand larceny and money laundering.

Haggerty faces up to 15 years in prison and at minimum could receive probation when he is sentenced Nov. 4.

“Well, obviously we’re disappointed in the verdict, although we’re pleased that they acquitted him on the top count,” said Haggerty attorney Dennis Vacco, who said he plans to appeal the verdict. “So while we’re disappointed, we have another day to fight.”

The $1.1 million was given by Bloomberg to the state Independence Party, which was to pay Haggerty for a ballot security operation that entailed hiring poll watchers on Election Day.

Prosecutors said Haggerty performed only $32,000 in ballot security work and used the rest to buy the Forest Hills Gardens home.

The jury did not buy the arguments from Haggerty’s attorneys that the $1.1 million donation constituted a gift and that Bloomberg had no control over the money’s use once it left his account.

During closing arguments last week, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eric Seidel said Haggerty created phony invoices to give the appearance that he was running a legitimate operation.

“It was a fiction,” Seidel said. “This is pure fiction. It was a con.”

Juror Stephen Conroy said the jury came to its decision in part because it believed the Independence Party was an agent for Bloomberg.

Vacco was surprised by that conclusion.

“That’s startling to me because there is absolutely nothing in the record which would indicate that the Independence Party was an agent, and while I have maintained from the outset that the $1.2 million contribution was not illegal, indeed if the Independence Party was an agent for Michael Bloomberg, that contribution was illegal,” Vacco said. “It’s startling to me that after four weeks of testimony, after five hours of summations, that anybody would walk away with the impression that the Independence Party was Michael Bloomberg’s agent. Quite frankly, that is a frightening concept.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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