Trial Of Brooklyn Judge Pushed Back Again Amid Pandemic

By Justin Wise
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Law360 (February 23, 2021, 8:57 PM EST) -- The trial of a Brooklyn state court judge accused of obstructing a federal probe into bank corruption won't take place until at least October because of factors including COVID-19, a New York federal judge has decided.

Both parties had previously said they were prepared for a possible trial of suspended Judge Sylvia Ash in April. During a conference conducted remotely on Monday, however, District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan set an Oct. 4 control date, which is typically a pretrial hearing reserved for discussion on scheduling and legal issues.

The pandemic's impact on the Southern District of New York's courtroom proceedings, as well as the defendant's recent health concerns, are some of the reasons for the order, Ash's attorney Carrie Cohen of  Morrison & Foerster LLP confirmed to Law360.

SDNY judges are currently working to get trial dates approved through an assignment committee, as a limited number of courtrooms are outfitted with equipment to ensure participants stay safe. The lack of courtrooms has led to a dramatic decrease in criminal trials, which Judge Kaplan acknowledged during a conference hearing in August.

"We have a very limited number of courtrooms that can accommodate criminal jury trials," he said.

Ash, formerly the presiding justice in the commercial division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Kings, is facing accusations that she obstructed a federal investigation into New York City's Municipal Credit Union, where she was previously chair of the board of directors. She is accused of deleting emails and texts and lying to investigators, and has pled not guilty to the allegations.

The charge against Ash stems from an investigation launched in wake of a 2018 embezzlement charge against former MCE CEO Kam Wong. Wong pled guilty to pilfering $10 million from the 500,000-member credit union and was sentenced to 5 ½ years in prison in 2019.

The New York State Department of Financial Services in 2019 placed MCU into a National Credit Union Administration conservatorship following the probe into the credit union's actions.

Ash is represented by Carrie Cohen and Janie C. Buckley of Morrison & Foerster LLP.

The government is represented by Daniel Richenthal and Eli Mark of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

The case is U.S. v. Ash, case number 1:19-cr-00780, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

--Additional reporting by Pete Brush. Editing by Regan Estes.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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