BY JON CRONIN
State Senator James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park) is filing a $1 million defamation suit against a two people who claimed in a 2016 New York Post article that Sanders solicited a $250,000 bribe from them.
Speaking on the steps of City Hall on Sunday surrounded by lawyer, Richard St. Paul, and community supporter, Ralph Charles, Sanders didn’t hold back in attacking his accusers, Marion Moses and Malisa Rivera.
“These are heinous, scurrilous accusations,” Sanders said, adding that he believed the accusation to be politically motivated, in part because he was running for Congress at the time the article came out.
“I spent my life as a reformer. The only thing I have in this world is my good name and you are not just going to take it from me without a fight. These charges against me are so ridiculous that I have no choice but to seek vindication in a court of law,” he added.
Moses and Rivera told the Post that Sanders would only agree to funnel $1.7 million dollars in state government funds to their non-profit, “Culinary Kids, Culinary Arts,” if the group partnered with local community group Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation, which would in turn give Sanders a $250,000 kickback for his efforts. The reporting triggered an investigation by federal prosecutors in the U.S. Southern District of New York.
In the press conference, Sanders refuted the claims, saying Moses and Rivera misrepresented their organization as a 501(c)3 charity, which they are not. Because they do not have 501(c)3 status, their nonprofit is not eligible for the discretionary funds they were seeking. The state senator added that if they were eligible, the funds would have had to go through a city agency, such as the Parks Department. He said that if the nonprofit wanted to utilize parkland, the Parks Department would have had to reimburse the nonprofit once once they could document expenses.
“In a day and age where prosecutors are making their careers by prosecuting elected officials, the mere allegation of the abuse of the public trust can cause a good public servant to be a target of prosecutors,” St. Paul said. “We are here today because these allegations are complete lies and fabrications made maliciously by parties who seek nothing more than to defame a servant of the public for their own personal gain. After conducting an investigation, we at the St. Paul law firm believe we have a strong defamation case.”
“We want these folks to get up in front of a judge and prove what they have said or reveal who put them up to it,” Sanders added.