Democratic Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has been indicted on two felony campaign finance charges, Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley announced on Friday. The grand jury indictment stems from Warren’s 2017 mayoral re-election campaign.
One felony charge is for first-degree scheme to defraud. The other charge is an election law offense for illegally coordinating activities and expenditures. Under New York’s rule, political action committees and committees are forbidden from coordinating.
The investigation by the New York State Board of Elections claims that the Warren for a Stronger Rochester PAC transferred $30,000 from the group to Warren’s committee, Friends of Lovely Warren, according to 2017 expenditure reports obtained by Rochester First.
Warren has firmly denied any wrongdoing, and called the investigation a “political witch hunt.” She claims the funds were errantly deposited in the PAC account.
Warren’s attorney, Joseph Damelio, said the length of time between the accusations and the investigation that led to the indictments shows the flimsiness of the criminal case.
If convicted of the Class E felony charges, Warren would be removed from office under state law. The maximum sentence would range from 16 months to four years in prison. “While Warren would be unlikely to be incarcerated, her pension could be forfeited if the matter is determined to be a crime related to public office, and she also could lose her law license,” USA Today reported.
Warren has not been arrested but will be processed, according to Doorley.
“This could be a long process and we anticipate that there could be challenges along the way so I don’t think this will be anything resolved quickly,” Doorley said during a news briefing.
Warren’s campaign treasurer, Albert Jones Jr., and the treasurer of her political action committee, Rosalind Brooks-Harris, have also been indicted in the case. Brooks-Harris is also Rochester’s finance director.
Warren and her two campaign associates will be arraigned at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5, in front of Cayuga County Judge Thomas Leone in Monroe County.
The Rochester mayor has been scrutinized over her handling of the death of Daniel Prude, who died while in the custody of Rochester Police. The 41-year-old died after police put a spit hood on his head during his arrest in March. He was completely nude during his arrest. The death sparked protests and riots in the city, where agitators targeted outside diners and residential homes.
In September, the entire Rochester Police Department command staff resigned.