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Wills to face trial in 1996 case of petit larceny, trespassing

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Despite having nearly 15 years to settle a misdemeanor case, City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) will be facing a trial for those charges in Manhattan later this summer.

Prosecutors and Wills’ attorney could not reach an agreement Friday to resolve a 1996 case in which the councilman allegedly broke into a public relations firm and removed a fan and track lighting, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office said.

As a result, the judge in the case set a trial date for Aug. 17, according to the spokeswoman.

Wills’ office declined to comment about the court hearing or the pending trial. If convicted on the petit larceny, criminal trespass and criminal mischief misdemeanor charges, he could face up to a year in prison, a spokeswoman for the DA’s office said.

On Aug. 14, 1996, Wills, who was 25 at the time, entered Inner Circle Communications around 10 a.m., damaged a wall and took the fan and lighting, the criminal complaint said. Prosecutors contend the councilman, who used to run a contracting business at the time, was retaliating against the owner after he fired him for a project.

Three bench warrants were issued following the initial charge, but Wills did not show up in court to answer them until March, when the cases were exposed in a published report. He is also dealing with a separate disposition matter in Nassau County Criminal Court over a misdemeanor charge involving an unlicensed permit for construction.

This is not the first time Wills has had a run in with the authorities.

Two years ago, he allegedly caused a ruckus at the Queens Board of Elections office in Kew Gardens when he challenged rival Allan Jennings’ ballot signatures for that fall’s Democratic primary for a Council race.

Wills and Jennings, who both went on to lose the primary that year, got into a heated argument and Wills took a swing at his opponent but missed and struck one of Jennings’ volunteers, the police said. The volunteer was knocked to the ground, but not seriously hurt.

Police responded to the scene and issued Wills a harassment report but did not arrest him, according to the authorities.

Wills won a special election the next year and replaced the late Tom White as the Council member representing the neighborhoods of the 28th District: Jamaica, South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and Rochdale Village.

Another election for the district is slated for his fall to determine who will fill the seat for the remainder of White’s four-year term.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 11:07 am, October 12, 2011
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