REWIND: Disgraced Senator Sampson's Dubious Legacy as Judiciary Committee Chair Must be Investigated.
Sunny Sheu: Suspicious death before he got a chance to testify
Senator Sampson's Acts as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Must be Examined
On May 6th, 2013, State Senator John Sampson turned himself in to face charges of embezzlement and obstruction of Justice.
The embezzlement charges stemmed from his alleged theft of funds from an escrow account when he was appointed by the court as a “referee” to preside over four foreclosure auctions. As referee, he was responsible for overseeing the auctions, and for delivering any excess funds resulting from them to the King’s County (Brooklyn) clerk for disbursement.
According to the charges, he used the money instead to finance his unsuccessful bid for King's County District Attorney in 2005. The irony of a candidate for the top crime-fighting job in Brooklyn using embezzled funds for his campaign is not lost on anyone. But there is plenty more irony in this story, and much of it has not been reported or discussed in the mainstream media. Sampson Chaired Hearings on Attorney and Judicial Corruption in 2009. Apart from being a Senator, John Sampson was, and is, a lawyer, and it was in this capacity that he allegedly embezzled money for his political ambitions. As a lawyer, Sampson’s professional conduct was under the jurisdiction of the Attorney Disciplinary/ Grievance Committee of Brooklyn.
How ironic then, that Sampson, as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, presided - virtually single handedly- over public hearings on the efficacy and integrity of the Brooklyn Attorney Disciplinary Committee as well as other such committees around the state. These hearings, held on June 8th and September 24, 2009, also collected testimony about the performance of the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the state body responsible for overseeing complaints against NY State judges.
[It should be noted that two other members of the Judiciary Committee at that time, Eric Adams and Ruth Hassel- Thompson, were also secretly recorded by State Senator Shirley Huntley, whose tapes landed Sampson in trouble; both have denied wrongdoing]. These hearings on judicial oversight, though virtually ignored by the media, were attended beyond capacity by hundreds of victims of attorney and judicial misconduct.
Nearly every witnesses testified that the judicial oversight bodies in New York State were utterly corrupt, and apparently served only to protect bad lawyers and judges while punishing any good ones who dared to challenge the corrupt system. At the time of the hearings, Sampson was applauded as an anti-corruption hero who was going to pull back the curtain on these oversight committees, and to expose the corruption that undermines their purpose.
But now we see that Sampson was allegedly already neck deep in attorney corruption himself. This begs the question: why did Sampson initiate public hearings investigating the very agencies that should have been investigating him? Was he engaged in a quid pro quo with the oversight committees by burying testimony against them, in exchange for a pass on his own alleged misconduct?
If Sampson had sincerely wanted to investigate and prosecute the complaints against the oversight committees, he would have followed up with complainants, and formally presented the evidence to law enforcement. In fact he did precisely the opposite: the tens of thousands of pages of evidence documenting abuses by the CJC and attorney disciplinary hearings were effectively buried. To our knowledge, not one of the over 100 witnesses that testified about corruption by the oversight committees was ever contacted for follow up. The witnesses were briefly placated by the chance to testify, but ultimately betrayed. In the end, the only real effect of the hearings was making the names, complaints and evidence of New Yorkers active against corruption available to the perpetrators.
A Threatened Witness Who Hoped Testifying Before Sampson's Committee Could Save His Life, Ends Up Dead, As He'd Feared
One of the witnesses that was scheduled to testify at the Sampson-presided hearings was Sun-Ming “Sunny” Sheu, a Taiwanese immigrant who had endured 10 years of court proceedings, trying to save his home from a fraudulent mortgage scheme. The blatantly biased rulings of the presiding judge, Joseph Golia, was so overt that Sheu, after Golia refused to recuse himself, filed a lawsuit against both Golia and then-Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman, to try and get Golia off his case. Lippman dismissed the case. [Judge Golia had already been a State Supreme Court justice since 1987 when, in 2001, Lippman appointed him as an Associate Justice, Appellate Term, 2nd Department].
Subsequently, on January 14, 2009, Sheu was illegally detained by two NYPD Detectives of the Queens District Atorney’s Bureau, where Golia had formerly been an Assistant DA under Richard Brown. Sheu claimed in a letter to the FBI that the detectives threatened him with death if he “went to the authorities or the media” with his complaints against Golia. Despite the threats, Sheu immediately filed a formal complaint against Golia with the CJC, mentioning the threats from the two detectives.
The CJC acknowledged receipt but took no action.
Sheu’s allegations regarding his ordeal were detailed in a series of articles called “Junk Justice” that ran in The Black Star News beginning in July, 2009. Finally, Sheu registered to testify at Sampson’s hearings on judicial oversight, hoping to underscore the lack of response to complaints of judicial misconduct.
Sheu was scheduled to testify at Sampson’s second hearing, but Sampson abruptly ended the hearing precisely before Sheu’s turn to speak, promising that further hearings would be held in December of 2009. Sheu received a confirmation from Sampson’s office that he was on the list to testify on December 16th. Sampson’s office then postponed the December 16th hearings without explanation; they never occurred.
Thus, Sheu never had a chance to put on the official record documentation of the alleged judicial corruption in his case and the death threats against him. On June 23, 20010 Sheu claimed that he had discovered proof of alleged financial fraud by Golia.
Three days later, on June 26th, 2010, Sunny Sheu was found on a deserted, industrial street in Queens, dead, miles from his home of “blunt force head trauma with skull fractures and brain injuries” according to the Queens Medical Examiner. [See: “The Death of Sunny Sheu”]. Despite the M.E.’s determination of blunt force trauma, the NYPD still insists that Sheu died of an aneurism with no head trauma. Despite the official “manner of death” being “undetermined” and requiring an investigation by law, no investigation has ever been held in Sheu’s death.
On December 11, 2011 the Blackstar News wrote a letter to Sampson, reminding him that a witness who had risked his life to come before Sampson’s hearings had been apparently murdered, and requesting that Sampson demand an investigation by the FBI and the NYPD.
One part of the letter read:
Senator Sampson, the implications of Mr Sheu’s death should be of paramount importance to you and the Senate Judiciary Committee. It appears that Mr. Sheu was killed due to his attempts to provide the Committee with evidence of judicial corruption. If Mr. Sheu can be killed without investigation, every current and potential witness to your Committee is in jeopardy.
Senator Sampson didn't respond to the BSN letter and follow-up e-mail messages and phone calls regarding Sheu’s death, and has never pressed for an investigation. Sampson’s lack of action regarding the possible murder of a witness before his own committee does not only undermine justice for Sheu; it protects those possibly complicit in the suspicious death and cover up. Sheu was fearful enough of the threats that he made a video mentioning Golia and the detectives as people who could harm him.
Now that John Sampson has been stripped of his committee assignments, and it is now alleged that he was engaged in criminal activities during his tenure as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, what becomes of the many decisions made by the Committee under his Chairmanship? Must they not all be investigated in light of the allegations against Sampson?
Sampson’s Fraudulent Hearings on the Confirmation of Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman
Perhaps Sampson’s most significant and enduring “achievement” as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee was the confirmation of NY Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, consummated at the “public” confirmation hearing of February 11th, 2009. The blatant violations of law and Senate rules in that hearing have been documented in a formal citizen’s complaint filed by this reporter and received by US Attorney Preet Bharara in early April, 2013.
The complaint establishes that:
The SJC failed to notify the public of the public hearing in accordance with Senate rules, but personally invited friends and supporters of Judge Lippman to speak on his behalf.
The SJC failed to investigate (or even review) evidence submitted to them about Lippman’s legacy of corruption as Administrative Judge and Presiding Judge of the First Department.
The SJC failed to consider complaints against Lippman filed and pending with the Commission on Judicial Conduct.
The SJC failed to inform the full Senate of the complaints and evidence against Lippman that were presented to them at the hearings, forcing the full Senate to vote on the confirmation without sufficient information.
Are Sampson and His Colleagues Taking the Fall for Higher-Up Criminals?
What motivated Sampson to run the confirmation hearing in such blatant violation of Senate rules and Constitutional law? In light of the federal allegations of Sampson’s corruption, it stands to reason that he was influenced to shoe-horn Lippman into office by powers that wanted Lippman in. Now that Sampson is indicted, the US Attorney must investigate the real powers behind Lippman’s fraud-ridden nomination and confirmation.
The other Senators who were serving on the Judiciary Committee at the time of the illegal confirmation must also be investigated, including now Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Schneiderman has stated that he was aware of allegations of wrongdoing against Lippman at the time of the confirmation hearing. Why did he fail to bring these allegations to the attention of the full senate?
This leads to another big question: while Sampson has allegedly engaged in some seriously shady dealings, might he ultimately be taking the fall for the people who are really behind the corruption in New York State? Might the rounding up of a group of conspicuously all-Black legislators, serve as a “show trial” to relieve the pressure on the bigger bad guys?
Sampson has entered a not-guilty plea.
But if Sampson is convicted and punished as an (albeit blemished) scapegoat, and his crooked superiors in Albany remain untouched, corruption at the highest level of New York State Government will thrive unhindered for decades to come. That would be the ultimate irony.