Rochester mayor in campaign finance case pleads not guilty

Rochester, N.Y., Mayor Lovely Warren (D) pleaded not guilty to felony campaign finance charges during an arraignment Monday.

Warren’s lawyer Joseph Damelio entered the mayor’s plea on her behalf during her arraignment in Monroe County Court. He said Warren did not purposefully break any campaign laws and was not preparing to resign as “her ability to govern has not been impaired,” The Associated Press reported

“She welcomes the opportunity for the public to see whether the district attorney’s charges hold water,” Damelio told reporters.

Warren along with two associates were indicted on Friday on charges of scheming to defraud and violating election laws. Her campaign treasurer, Albert Jones Jr., and Rosalind Brooks-Harris, the treasurer of the PAC that supported the mayoral candidate, also both pleaded not guilty. 

The three allegedly made moves to evade contribution limits between Nov. 6, 2013 and Nov. 7, 2017. 

If the mayor is convicted, she could face up to four years in prison, lose her law license and be removed as mayor, district attorney Sandra Doorley said, according to AP.

Motions in the case will be argued on Jan. 12.

The state Board of Elections had received complaints about Warren’s campaign finances in 2017 from two candidates who ran against her. But Doorley said the board received a 35-page report in March “that found considerable evidence” against the three defendants. 

Warren has denied wrongdoing and called the investigation a “political witch hunt.”

The mayor has faced separate calls to resign over the city’s handling of Daniel Prude’s suffocation death in March after police pinned the Black man naked to a street and put a spit hood over his head. 

Prude’s family released police body camera video of his arrest last month after they received it through an open records request. The video sparked unrest in Rochester as protests broke out against police brutality and racial injustice, and some accused city officials of covering up the death.

The Monroe County medical examiner ruled Prude’s death a homicide, but Warren said she didn’t know the medical examiner’s ruling until Aug. 4 when she viewed the body camera footage.

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