State Sen. Kevin Parker’s trial for assaulting a New York Post photographer has been delayed until after the September primary election, but this time the pugilistic legislator has a longtime political rival to thank for the hold up.
Judge Neil Firetog agreed on Thursday to suspend the trial until Oct. 18 after District Attorney Charles Hynes’s office admitted that the son of Parker’s opponent in the primary is on the DA’s staff.
Assistant District Attorney James Leeper said that ADA Wynton Sharpe, whom Hynes hired in 2004, never touched a scrap of paper relating to Parker’s case, but his family lineage to candidate Wellington Sharpe, and the fact he’s assigned to the same bureau handling the case, would raise questions of impropriety.
“The relationship between ADA Sharpe and his father have so compromised this case that we think it’s appropriate to have a special district attorney be brought in,” Leeper said, claiming that, even though Hynes’s office has been working on this case for over a year, no one ever made the connection between Parker and Sharpe until this week.
“We were making an inquiry into the status of Sen. Parker’s campaign and we learned that his opponent was [Wellington Sharpe],” he said. It is unclear why Hynes’s office was checking into Parker’s re-election campaign in an assault case that has nothing to do with that campaign.
Wynton Sharpe has been suspended without pay for not disclosing to his superior that his father is a political rival of the state senator. Sharpe is now facing an investigation over why he was not forthcoming with that information.
Lonnie Hart, Parker’s attorney, tried to milk the Sharpe connection into a dismissal, claiming the DA should have known one of his own was related to his client’s political opponent.
“I don’t understand how this just came to light,” Hart asked. “Everyone knew that Wellington Sharpe’s son worked for the DA’s office — except the DA’s office.”
Firetog wouldn’t grant Hart’s request for a dismissal, finding that Sharpe’s son didn’t compromise the grand jury proceedings or the indictment.
“To have someone in the DA’s office related to a politician is troubling, but there’s no reason to find that [the case against Parker] isn’t credible,” he said, adding that “most people in the DA’s office are not political or have political ties.”
But DA Hynes does. In 2009, he soared into his fifth term after getting the support from the Democratic Party establishment — which is also allied with Parker, despite his truculent past.
Judge Firetog appears to be the only person in the case who is not tainted by politics. Unlike elected judges, who win their seats on the bench thanks to party backing, Firetog is an appointed judge, first getting his seat from then-Mayor Ed Koch in 1983. He’s been reappointed by every mayor since.
Parker’s misdeeds are legendary. He was arrested in 2005 for punching out a traffic enforcement officer, although those charges were dropped when Parker agreed to take anger management classes. Since taking the classes he’s been accused of roughing up an aide, and attacking Wellington Sharpe during a earlier campaign. He’s also wigged out at a recent Senate hearing, calling Republicans “white supremacists.”
Although Sharpe never brought the assault complaint to the police, he did bring it to court: He hit Parker with a $500,000 lawsuit in 2005, claiming injuries from the attack. He received a default judgment in his favor earlier this year when Parker failed to respond to the charges.
Sharpe also filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against the legislator in 2004 after Parker told this paper Sharpe was purposefully inserted into his 2004 Democratic Primary to split the black vote so his white challenger — former Councilman Noach Dear — would win. Sharpe’s son Wynton drew up and filed the court papers, according to court records. The case was ultimately settled when Parker agreed to publish a retraction.
Sharpe said even though the case has been postponed, he believes he will beat Parker at the polls since everyone already knows about the scrappy senator’s shenanigans.
“Parker is a thug! He attacks people in the Senate and he attacks people in the street,” Sharpe said. “This case is not going to trial this week, but that doesn’t change that he’s a thug.”
He was outraged that his son was used in a “loophole” to postpone the case.
“My son has been working for the DA’s office for six years and everyone was well aware of it,” he seethed. “He wasn’t there under some hidden agenda. We have one of the greatest legal systems in the world, but there are people like Parker who use legal loopholes to protect themselves and that’s what happened here.”
The delay in the case will make it easier for Parker to skate through the primary, as news stories about his alleged assault of New York Post photographer William Lopez will likely not appear.
If convicted, Parker faces seven years in prison and would be removed from the Senate.
Sharpe has tried to retire Parker — and others — before. Over the last 10 years, he has run for Council twice, state Senate twice and the Assembly — yet the voters have yet to put him in office.