State Sen. Kevin Parker escaped serious jail time — and will likely get to keep his office — as a jury on Tuesday acquitted him of felony assault charges stemming from a 2009 scuffle with a New York Post photographer.
The jury of 12 Brooklynites did find the four-term lawmaker guilty of two misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief — and he is still facing a sentence of up to a year in jail — but Parker saw the verdict as a vindication of sorts.
“I am somewhat disappointed by not being totally acquitted, but I’m appreciative that the jury saw past all of the nonsense that the prosecution put forward,” said Parker (D–Flatbush), who was already heading up to Albany for a Senate session after the split verdict. “I’m looking forward to getting back to work for the state. I never stopped being a senator.”
Parker, who has a long history of erratic and violent behavior, was accused of attacking photographer William Lopez during a confrontation outside of the legislator’s East Flatbush home. Lopez was slightly injured in the scuffle over the camera. His car, camera and flash were also damaged.
But the prosecution never actually produced Lopez’s damaged camera as a piece of evidence because the Post had repaired it before the trial began.
That became a key point during the two-day trial, according to juror Barry Keenan.
“The prosecution could not prove that the camera they were showing us was the same camera that had been broken,” said Keenan, 38. “All they had was a picture of the broken camera from 15 feet away. The camera sat in a locker for nine months. Anything could have happened to it.”
Unable to convict Parker on the felony charge of attempted grand larceny, the jury could not move on to the more serious felony assault count, said Keenan.
Keenan and his fellow jurors were not aware of Parker’s rap sheet. This is the second time in five years that Parker has been accused of thuggish behavior. In 2005, he was arrested for punching out a traffic enforcement agent, but the charges were dropped when he agreed to take anger management classes.
And earlier this year, Parker wigged out at a Senate hearing, calling Republicans “white supremacists.”
Though unknown to the jury, Parker’s antics are well known to residents in his district, said Rock Hackshaw, a Flatbush political activist and Brooklyn College lecturer.
“I’m pretty surprised by the verdict,” Hackshaw said. “I always thought this case was a slam dunk. [Parker] has a long rap sheet of doing outrageous things.”
It was just such an “outrageous” thing that occurred on May 8, 2009, prosecutors said.
In her opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Kathleen DiGiovanni detailed how Parker charged the shutterbug, chasing him around the corner. And Parker didn’t stop there.
In the trial, Lopez testified that Parker doubled back to the photographer’s Subaru and was sitting on its hood when the photographer returned.
As Lopez got behind the wheel, Parker grabbed the driver’s-side door, reached in and snatched the camera.
“I grabbed onto the strap and intended to pull it back,” Lopez told the jury. “[Parker] ended up in my lap. I don’t know how long we were struggling. If it was a minute, it felt like 10.”
Lopez suffered a fractured finger during the struggle. The camera, the flash and the inside of the Subaru were damaged.
Throughout the entire tug of war, Parker lambasted the media, Lopez recalled.
“He said, ‘Why is it every time the New York Post does a story about me, it’s something embarrassing,” Lopez said, quoting the politician. “I told him, ‘Right now you’re embarrassing yourself.’”
Hart argued that the case against Parker was “entirely about politics.”
“The only reason Mr. Parker is in here is because of his position as a state senator from Brooklyn,” Hart said. “If he was a bus driver or worked at a post office, we would not be sitting here because this is the most ridiculous case that’s ever been tried in Supreme Court.”
Tuesday’s verdict does not require his withdrawal from the Senate, but Parker could receive a year in jail, prosecutors said. He’s expected to be sentenced on the misdemeanor counts next month.
Defense lawyer Lonnie Hart believes that Judge Neil Firetog should not bring down the hammer on his client.
“[Parker] has no criminal record and is a productive member of this borough,” said Hart. “He shouldn’t be sentenced to jail. All we’re asking is that he be treated like a regular citizen.”
But Parker should be worried about something else — suffering the same fate as former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate, a Queens lawmaker who was convicted of misdemeanor assault charges for battering his girlfriend in February.
He beat the felony charge, and was legally allowed to return to Albany, but the Senate expelled him.
Parker should suffer the same fate, Hackshaw said.
“[Parker] has a long rap sheet of doing outrageous things,” Hackshaw explained. “The same standards that applied to Monserrate must apply here.”
Parker, however, doesn’t believe he’ll be facing a senate’s scrutiny.
“My case and Monserrate’s are two different situations,” Parker said.