BY JORDAN GIBBONS
A campaign ad for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has brought him under fire from a Southeast Queens Councilman.
In September, Schneiderman released his first campaign commercial, which focused on his prosecution of corrupt public officials. The ad has been altered since its original airing, due to attacks from his Republican opponent in the upcoming November election, John Cahill, and Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), who was featured in handcuffs in the original ad.
Wills was shown in news footage being walked to a vehicle by two police officers after his recent arrest on corruption charges. Schneiderman refers to the case as, “about as low as you can go.” The Councilman has not been convicted of any of the charges against him.
Wills was not mentioned by name and Peter Ajemian, Schneiderman’s campaign spokesman, said he was unidentifiable.
“This ad highlights the Attorney General’s unprecedented record on public integrity, including his prosecution of dozens of officials who have abused the public trust. After several days of limited circulation on cable stations, the ad was revised before being viewed by a larger audience on broadcast television,” Ajemian said in a statement. “The revision was made in an abundance of caution – the original ad neither identified by name nor showed a clear image of any defendant. Ironically, attention to the identity of the defendant in question is being brought by that defendant and by Mr. Cahill, as he careens from attack to attack.”
Wills was arrested in May and charged by Schneiderman with third-degree grand larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud, first-degree falsifying business records and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, according to the indictment by the Attorney General’s office. If convicted of the grand larceny charge, Wills could serve up to seven years in prison.
In July, Wills’ attorneys Steve Zissou and Sally Butler filed a motion to have Schneiderman removed from the case and replaced with a special prosecutor. The attorneys questioned Schneiderman’s intentions in the indictment and claimed the Attorney General’s office released misinformation to tarnish Wills’ name and reputation.
Zissou confirmed that there have been supplemental filings on the original motion, but would not comment further about the campaign ad. He said that there has been no decision made on whether a special prosecutor will be assigned.
At a press conference in June, Butler said that Schneiderman wants to control the votes in Queens and improve his chances for re-election.
At the time, a representative from Schneiderman’s office brushed off the allegations from the Councilman’s counselors.
“The people of New York expect and deserve a government that serves their interests and fights to ensure there is one set of rules for everyone, which is why Attorney General Schneiderman has prosecuted more than 40 individuals in public corruption cases,” Matt Mittenthal, a spokesman for Schneiderman, said. “He is committed to rooting out public corruption wherever it exists and will follow the evidence wherever it leads.”
Reach Reporter Jordan Gibbons at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @jgibbons2.