by: Mosi Secret
In October 2010, William F. Boyland Jr., a state assemblyman from Brooklyn, shared fine cuts of meat, wine and whiskey with two businessmen who were trying to buy Mr. Boyland’s political influence.
The men met several more times over the next year — in a hotel room in Atlantic City, at a Manhattan restaurant and elsewhere — and their talk danced around sordid topics: payoffs, favors and schemes that they said they would hatch together.
The contents of those conversations are not in dispute; the businessmen were undercover agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in a corruption investigation that led to Mr. Boyland’s arrest on bribery and other charges in November 2011. Every conversation was recorded.
But Mr. Boyland’s intention in those recorded conversations — once seemingly so certain that Mr. Boyland, 43, had planned to plead guilty — is now the subject of dispute, and was at the heart of opening statements as his trial commenced in Federal District Court in Brooklyn on Monday.
A federal prosecutor, Robert L. Capers, laid out the government’s case, built on hours and hours of audio recordings, testimony from the undercover agents who worked the case and testimony from Mr. Boyland’s former chief of staff, Ryan Hermon, who pleaded guilty to bribery charges and is cooperating with the government.
Mr. Capers said that the case was about money and power, and that Mr. Boyland, who represents Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Crown Heights and Bushwick, “had the power to bring change for these people, to be their voice, to improve their lives.”
“But all he wanted to do with that power,” Mr. Capers said, “was get money.”
The prosecutor characterized Mr. Boyland as a portrait of arrogance. “As if he’s the king of Brownsville, he tells them that ‘I’m the politician and everything you see here, I control,’ ” he said.
One of Mr. Boyland’s lawyers, Nancy L. Ennis, told jurors a different narrative in her opening statement, that of a frustrated federal agent struggling to make a case. She said that Mr. Boyland became a government target only when the F.B.I. was stonewalled in its investigation of its original target, former City Councilman Albert Vann. Agents first hoped to use Mr. Boyland to reach Mr. Vann, Ms. Ennis said, but focused on Mr. Boyland when that proved ineffective.
Ms. Ennis said, “They chased him like Ahab chasing Moby Dick.” But she said that Mr. Boyland made them only “hollow promises.” She continued, “Most of the things they discussed never materialized.”
“He was playing the players,” she said. “If that is a crime, it’s not one of the crimes charged here.”
Mr. Boyland is accused of participating in four schemes in a 21-count indictment. Several of the counts stem from allegations that Mr. Boyland solicited and accepted bribes in exchange for helping a cooperating witness, who was posing as a carnival promoter, and an undercover agent set up lucrative carnivals in his district. Prosecutors said that in another scheme, Mr. Boyland said that he would set up a sweetheart real estate deal worth millions of dollars in exchange for $250,000.
Mr. Boyland is also accused of submitting false travel vouchers to the Assembly and conspiring to steer state money into a nonprofit that he ran for his personal use. In 2011, he was acquitted of conspiracy to accept bribes in a federal trial in Manhattan.
During the more than two years that it has taken the case to reach trial, Mr. Boyland has floated in and out of the courthouse seemingly without worry. On Monday, he sat at the defendant’s table, in a white shirt and olive suit, at times lowering his head and other times taking notes.
Ms. Ennis said that Mr. Boyland, who she said had trouble making his car payments, had a house in foreclosure and could not pay his son’s school tuition, was “hardly the profile of a corrupt politician.”
Like Mr. Capers, she said that she would prove her case with the audio recordings. “Thank God for the tapes,” she said.