NEW YORK — A former deputy inspector for the New York Police Department was exonerated on bribery charges Wednesday after prosecutors failed to prove he accepted gifts in exchange for doing favours for two businessmen.
The verdict that cleared James Grant also resulted in the conviction of his co-defendant, businessman Jeremy Reichberg.
It capped a nearly two-month trial that featured angry fights between lawyers and the testimony of a prostitute who said she was hired by businessmen for a 2013 flight to Las Vegas with Grant and others.
The trial cast a negative light on Mayor Bill de Blasio after Reichberg and another businessman raised money for the Democrat. The mayor was never accused of wrongdoing.
Grant’s exoneration was a rare loss for prosecutors in a Manhattan courthouse where they secure convictions against most defendants.
John Meringolo, a lawyer for Grant, said he was glad that his client will get a chance to rebuild his life.
“I’m just happy for Jimmy and his family,” the lawyer said. “What they put his family through was not nice.”
Grant thanked his lawyer and his family.
Susan Necheles, Reichberg’s attorney, said she would appeal.
“We’re disappointed with the verdict. We think there are real issues on appeal. We’ll continue to press them,” she said.
As for her client, she said: “He’s happy for his friend Jimmy Grant but disappointed.”
Necheles said she believed the jury had trouble seeing past “irrelevant garbage” that emerged during the trial.
Prosecutors claimed Grant helped Reichberg obtain a licensed gun more quickly than usual and gave him other assistance in return for gifts.
They also said Reichberg and another businessman, Jona Rechnitz, once dressed as Santa Claus to deliver gifts to high-ranking police officials on Christmas Day 2013.
Rechnitz pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud and testified for the government at the trial. He described arranging a flight on a private jet to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl in 2013, when the prostitute, Gabriella Curtis, was aboard.
Curtis also testified, recalling what she could from the weekend.
“No one wanted to be in any pictures. That was very clear the whole weekend,” she said.
Rechnitz also testified last year at the trial of Norman Seabrook, the former head of the union representing guards at Rikers Island. Seabrook was convicted of corruption charges and awaits sentencing.
The Associated Press