MANHATTAN (CN) — Escaping his first corruption indictment only to be charged again and convicted, disgraced New York Assemblyman William Boyland, Jr. placed his hopes on a Supreme Court ruling to free him from a 14-year sentence.
But Boyland’s luck ran out on Monday morning, as the Second Circuit found evolving bribery laws strong enough to sustain the second verdict against him.
Assuming office in 2003, Boyland served a little more than decade in the state Legislature before being unseated in a corruption scandal.
The Brooklyn Democrat maintained his freedom and his political career after the first trial in 2011, which ended in an acquittal.
Nearly nine months later, however, federal prosecutors brought forth a separate indictment alleging that they caught Boyland soliciting more than $250,000 in bribes even before his first set of charges were resolved.
This time, a Brooklyn federal jury found that Boyland extorted a carnival promoter and developers behind a $140 million hospital project in his district to fund his campaign in exchange for favors.
Boyland was also convicted of stealing $200,000 in funds meant for the elderly and submitting more than 200 false travel vouchers where he claimed to be in Albany on official business, when he was actually in North Carolina, Virginia or the Turkish city of Istanbul.
Upon his conviction in 2014, then-U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch portrayed Boyland as the consummate corrupt official.
“Wherever there was an opportunity for William Boyland to corruptly line his own pockets, he took it,” said Lynch, who later rose to U.S. attorney general.
“By soliciting bribes, by stealing funds intended to help the elderly, and by defrauding New York State and the Assembly, Boyland cravenly pursued his own interest at the expense of his constituents,” she added. “In doing so, Boyland not only broke the law, but broke faith with the public he was elected to serve.”
Since Boyland’s conviction, the Supreme Court loosened federal bribery laws in the case of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, which established the precedent that buying political access is legal.
In its wake, federal prosecutors conceded that Boyland’s jury received outdated instructions from U.S. District Judge Sandra Townes, who presided over the case.
Though it agreed that at least 10 of those jury instructions were “erroneous,” the Second Circuit emphasized that Boyland provided more than access to his political benefactors.
“While the instructions with respect to the honest-services fraud and Hobbs Act extortion counts were erroneous in light of the standard set by McDonnell, we cannot conclude that the errors affected Boyland's substantial rights,” U.S. Circuit Judge Amalya Kearse wrote for the court.
U.S. Circuit Judges John Walker and Peter Hall rounded out the three-person panel.
“City licenses and permits were required for the operation of a carnival,” the 24-page ruling continued. “And city or state approvals were required in order to secure grant money, to award the contemplated demolition contracts, and to enact zoning changes. All of these approvals would require the formal exercise of governmental power.”
In a phone interview, Boyland’s attorney Jim Branden vowed another level of appeal.
“It’s sort of hard to understand the circuit’s conclusion that the district court erroneously charged at least two-thirds of the counts that it brought to the jury and that somehow did not affect Mr. Boyland’s rights,” he said.
The Department of Justice declined to comment on the ruling.
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