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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Espada News Roundup

So onto this week's big story: the burgeoning scandal surrounding Pedro Espada, Jr. and the lawsuit filed yesterday by the Attorney General's office against his Soundview Healthcare Network. A lot's gone down in the last 24 hours.

We'll start with the most recent: early this morning, agents from the FBI, the IRS and AG Cuomo's office raided Espada's Soundview offices on White Plains Road, on the grounds of a federal search warrant, according to the Times' City Room Blog. The article also mentions that "A law enforcement official said the investigation would have criminal implications." So far, the charges brought against Espada by the AG's office have been civil, not criminal.

Despite the raids, business at the Soundview clinic appears to be operating as usual, according to the article. The Daily News spoke to a few of the center's patients, who had nothing but praise for the clinic itself but were less enthusiastic about its founder and CEO.

While Espada's spokesman didn't return a call for comment yesterday, the senator held a press conference in Albany last night to offer his side of the story. According to the Times Union's Capitol Blog, Espada spoke for 12 minutes and answered three reporters' questions before ending the session.

In his statement, Espada called the accusations against him "unfounded," said the lawsuit is political payback for his role in the senate coup last summer, took a personal jab at AG Andrew Cuomo, then went on to praise the accomplishments of Soundview and referenced his own "rent freeze" bill. You can read his whole statement here.

Meanwhile, Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter's campaign released a statement responding to the charges against Espada. Her spokesman, Eric Koch called the Attorney General's complaint a "shameful story."

Speaking of Pilgrim-Hunter, who announced this weekend that she'd be challenging Espada's seat this fall: the NY Post reports yesterday that Espada, when probed about money laundering charges against two consulting firms linked to his name, suggested that news of the investigation might have been "coordinated" with Pilgrim-Hunter's recent candidacy announcement.

"I'm telling you right now that these are 100 percent falsehoods to fit in neatly, I think, in a rather coordinated way with the announcement over the weekend of the challenge to me," Espada told the Post. 

Friends of Desiree Hunter, Pilgrim-Hunter's campaign committee, responded in kind with a press release yesterday: "Here's a newsflash: there is no coordination -- there is only Desiree talking about the need to make a fresh start, and Pedro Espada once again showing us why," it read. 

An editorial in today's Daily News is a rousing call for Espada's expulsion from the State Senate.

The News' Daily Politics blog has an update on how the Senate is faring today without its majority leader--Espada asked to be excused to deal with "personal business matters," the blog says. The senate has seven bills on its active list today, according to the article, and without Espada the Democrats will need at least one Republican vote to pass anything.

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