In a coda to the investigation of Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind and various associates, Rabbi Elliot Amsel, a key Hikind fund-raiser, pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing more than $700,000 from Syrit College, the Brooklyn computer school he ran until his indictment.
Once it went to the jury, Dov Hikind’s fate was never in doubt. “We decided pretty quickly he was not guilty” of the bribery charge against him, Lucille Muscarella, a juror in the federal corruption case against the Brooklyn assemblyman, told The Jewish Week. And the jury dispensed quickly, too, she said, with the charge that he had misapplied federal funds.
The courtroom light switches off, the overhead projector flicks on. And once more, the prosecutor speaks dryly of checks, contracts and budgets as the documents are projected on screen to the jurors. There are checks from the Council of Jewish Organizations of Boro Park — then Brooklyn’s largest Jewish community council — and its spinoffs to the political coffers of Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, and other political campaigns.
There are government contracts sponsored by Hikind and awarded to the council for social service programs.
Were contracts drawn up by senior officials of Brooklyn’s largest Jewish community council in response to subpoenas long after the work was supposedly done complete fabrications? Or was real work accomplished without agreements being signed at the time?
In the wake of testimony this week at the trial of Assemblyman Dov Hikind, it is virtually certain that point will be vigorously contested by prosecutors and defense lawyers.
Just two weeks from trial, the federal corruption case against Assemblyman Dov Hikind took a surprising turn last week when one of his two codefendants suddenly pleaded guilty to paying off the Brooklyn political leader.
Paul Chernick, a top official of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Boro Park, then Brooklyn’s largest Jewish community council, told a Brooklyn court last Thursday that he had made illegal payoffs to Hikind in exchange for government grants Hikind secured for the council.