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Rochester Mayor Due In Court To Face Campaign Finance Charges

The mayor of Rochester, N.Y., who last month fired the city's police chief and implemented disciplinary actions for other city officials for their response to the death of Daniel Prude in police custody in March, is due in court Monday to face two felony charges for alleged campaign finance violations.

Mayor Lovely Warren and two political associates are accused of knowingly committing the finance violations dating back to her 2017 reelection campaign.

Warren is scheduled to be arraigned at 4 p.m. Monday. She has previously denied intentionally breaking the law.

Sandra Doorley, the Monroe County District Attorney, announced Friday that a grand jury handed up indictments, which include a first-degree charge of scheme to defraud and campaign finance violations "for the purpose of evading the contribution limits set by law."

"I don't believe this affects her ability to serve as the mayor," Doorley said of the indictment.

"Lovely Warren is still the mayor of the city of Rochester. Mayoral business needs to continue. I don't want to disrupt that and I want us to continue in our community," she added.

Prosecutors would not disclose the specific amount of the alleged violation, but they suggested it could be several hundred thousand dollars. Officials noted the donation limits for the 2017 mayoral campaign cycle was capped at $8,557 dollars.

Both charges are nonviolent Class E felonies, which if convicted, carry a range of sentences from no jail time to four years in prison, according to Rochester-based NPR member station WXXI. Warren could also lose her law license if found guilty.

The mayor has not commented publicly since the indictment was announced. However, an attorney for Warren told WXXI that she is innocent of the charges.

"Her position has not changed one bit and that is she's innocent and that she maintains that she did not intend to violate the law," said Warren's attorney Joseph Damelio. "She did not knowingly violate the law and she's anxious to get this process started and she's ready to go to trial."

Albert Jones Jr., Warren's campaign treasurer, was also indicted, as well as Rosalind Brooks-Harris, who was the treasurer of a political action committee for Warren. Brooks-Harris is currently Rochester's Finance Director.

The timing of the charges against the embattled mayor comes as Warren's administration faces mounting criticism for its handling of the Prude case.

Warren's office has said she was not informed of the full details of Prude's death until August, roughly five months after he died following an encounter with police. Critics have called that timeline into question. Some have called on Warren to resign.

Justin Roj, communications director for the mayor who was among the officials she suspended last month, tweeted that he was not aware of what happened to Prude before Aug. 4.

Attorneys for the Prude family released police video of the encounter to the public weeks later.

Prude, a Black man who had suffered from mental health issues, was fatally restrained by Rochester police in March. Prude's brother called 911 to report Prude was missingand suffering from a mental health crisis.

When police encountered Prude, he was naked and there are reports that he said he had the coronavirus. Police handcuffed Prude and placed a mesh covering over his head, known as a "spit hood," to prevent him from spitting and biting.

Officers then held his head to the ground. Prude died several days later.

Last month, Warren fired then-police chief La'Ron Singletary, two weeks before he planned to step down from the post.

Warren has also requested federal investigations and citywide reforms since Prude's death became widely known following the release of police footage last month. The footage sparked protests and accusations of a police cover-up.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.