BY MATT RICCHIAZZI
When US Attorney William C. Hochul, 57, abruptly announced his resignation on Wednesday, it sparked a flurry of speculation among longtime political observers who are wondering what could have sparked the irregular move. His resignation will take effect on October 28th, just days ahead of the November election.
Hochul is a career prosecutor with the Department of Justice, and has served nearly 30 years. That he is departing such a reputable office just months short of 30-year benchmarks for lucrative federal retirement benefits has unsettled the local political establishment. His term was scheduled to end shortly after January 20th, upon the presidential appointment and Senate confirmation of his successor.
In a press release distributed by the US Attorney’s Office, Hochul says that he intends to pursue private sector interests, and omits any suggestion that a health or family emergency is pressing.
But skeptics suggest that a move to the private sector, under typical circumstances, would occur after the US Attorney leaves office – causing many to wonder if he is being pushed out early.
The unexpected news of his abrupt departure comes two weeks after US Attorney Preet Bharara charged eight individuals in a broad ranging public corruption scheme that involved Governor Andrew Cuomo’s right hand man, Joe Percoco, and the CEO of the region’s largest government construction contractor, Louis Ciminelli, a prolific contributor to Cuomo.
Bharara is widely reported to be conducting several ongoing public corruption probes in Western New York, with several wire taps still open.
Could Hochul’s departure be, in some way, connected to Bharara’s probe?
Hochul is married to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.
In the autumn of 2014, The Buffalo Chronicle published a five-part series penned by Mike Madigan, the former Republican nominee for US Congress. Madigan’s investigation detailed a series of suspect actions that were taken in high profile cases by the US Attorney, timed immediately following major contributions to his wife, Kathy, who was running for Congress at the time.
In one case, U.S. Attorney Hochul and his office was tasked with prosecuting this case against union Local 17 members. The defendants involved in this case were accused of both threatening violence and of taking violent action on behalf of their Union. According to The Buffalo News the violent activity included stabbing a company executive, threatening to sexually assault a company representative’s wife and destruction of occupied cars and destruction of expensive privately owned heavy construction equipment.
U.S. Attorney Hochul’s wife Kathy Hochul received from the same unions involved in this case before her husband what can only be described as game changing large cash contributions, over $250,000, and game changing support that greatly contributed to her victory in the 2011 special election for congress.
Kathy Hochul’s election to Congress and these funds greatly benefited both William and Kathy Hochul financially as a family. In fact Kathy Hochul, on June 25, 2012, repaid herself $250,000 from her campaign account that was funded by this conflicted union money. These same unions that were making these payments to Kathy Hochul were at the same time highly engaged in a major case involving her U.S. Attorney husband. In fact the day prior to Hochul repaying herself the $250,000 – Local 17 paid $5,000 into that same account.
The unions involved in the case performed over 30,000 phone calls, and knocked on 20,000 doors, and distributed 30,000 fliers on behalf of Kathy Hochul prior to her 2011 victory in the special election.
The Hochul’s accepted the UAW offer to hold her campaign night reception in 2011 at the AFL-CIO member UAW Buffalo Headquarters. Incredibly, U.S. Attorney Hochul apparently felt there was no conflict of interest involved with his family accepting this gift. The U.S. Attorney partied at the Buffalo union headquarters with the same unions he was facing in federal court at the same time.
“Kathy Hochul’s accepting these gifts and large cash payments completely compromised the U.S. Attorney and by association his office during the prosecution of these cases,” Madigan wrote. “Significant sentence reductions were handed down and the case was deemed a partial victory for the unions.”
In another case, the attorney of the violent drug dealer Anthony Lamarand made three separate contributions within hours of major case activity involving the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Lamarand case on three different dates over a 15 month period showing a strong correlation between case activity before the U.S. Attorney and cash payments to Kathy Hochul’s congressional campaign account.
Cash flowed from four of the primary defendants’ legal teams.
Federal courts in the Western District of New York grant an unusually high number of sentence reductions for criminals. The district also has some of the longest sentences.