Ex-Jail Union Boss Pleads ‘Absolutely Not Guilty’

     MANHATTAN (CN) — Indicted on claims that he steered $20 million in union funds to his hedge fund friend for kickbacks, the former head of New York’s most powerful correctional officers’ union showed defiance to spare at his arraignment.
     “Absolutely not guilty, Your Honor,” the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association’s former president Norman Seabrook pleaded on Friday morning.
     Murray Huberfeld, the manager of the Platinum Partners hedge fund, also denied the charges, but without the same dramatic flair.
     On June 8, Seabrook and Huberfeld became the latest charged in Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s twin clampdowns on public corruption and civil rights violations in New York prisons and jails. The-then union chief lost his job two days later.
     In 2015, Bharara’s office brought down both the Democratic and Republican heads of the New York State Legislature, just a few months after entering into a consent decree to reform the troubled prison system at Rikers Island.
     His office is also investigating Downstate Correctional Facility and prosecuting a Rikers guard accused of beating inmate Ronald Spear to death.
     Seabrook, who sported carefully groomed, salt-and-pepper facial hair, a pocket square and powder-blue tie, is not accused of civil rights violations.
     But prosecutors say that the dapper ex-union boss took a $60,000 kickback handed to him in an $800 Salvatore Ferragamo bag to steer his 9,000-strong union’s dues toward the Midtown Manhattan-based hedge fund Platinum Partners.
     Last month, Bharara said Seabrook redirected the “nest eggs of thousands of hardworking public servants,” whom he noted paid $45 each two-week pay period.
     New York City contributes roughly $845 to the union’s annuity fund for every rookie corrections officer, and $1,411 for every veteran corrections officer with more than five years on the job.
     Assistant U.S. Attorney Russel Capone said that the government’s evidence would include “several thousands” of emails and wiretapped conversations in English, Spanish and Yiddish intercepted from the men’s cellphones.
     The men and their lawyers declined to discuss their defense strategy going forward, but Seabrook reiterated his denials to reporters.
     “We will be vindicated,” Seabrook said in front of the courthouse. “God is a good guy.”
     The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Nov. 4.
     
     Photo caption: Norman Seabrook speaking to reporters outside the courthouse Friday.

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