Is guilty plea an end to career of deceit?
By Adam Wisnieski
At 1:25 p.m. on Oct. 12, Pedro Espada Jr. did something he may have never done in his political life: he admitted that he had done something wrong.
In a quiet courtroom — with the jury box full of reporters, the left wing of the public gallery full of family members, the right wing full of FBI agents and lawyers from the U.S. Attorney’s Office — Mr. Espada, 58, looking smart in a navy suit with a maroon tie, stood tall in front of Judge Frederic Block.
He didn’t speak with the bombast or theatrics that have come to define the man who once represented Bronxites in the State Senate and City Council. He didn’t speak with the same pomposity as when he was one of the most powerful men in the state, serving as the first Puerto Rican Senate Majority Leader, the highest position a Puerto Rican politician has risen to in New York State.
He said it simply: “Guilty, your honor.”
Judge Block asked if he was speaking of his own free will.
“Yes, your honor, I accept responsibility.”
Mr. Espada was not admitting to the crime of stealing thousands of dollars from the Soundview Healthcare Network for which he has already been convicted; he was only accepting guilt on a single tax charge. In 2006, he filed a 1040 reporting his income for the previous year as $297,630. It wasn’t.
“I admit I knew the number to be in excess of that,” he told the judge.
Though Mr. Espada had already been found guilty of stealing what the government estimates to be more than $400,000 from the Soundview Healthcare Network that he founded and of which he was the CEO, he never admitted he stole anything or apologized for it. The jury found him guilty, but only after he fought to prove he was the victim of a political witch-hunt.
For years, dodging responsibility for misdeeds has defined Pedro Espada. He’s done it artistically, cleverly and with skill.