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Ex-State Sen. Espada convicted of embezzling taxpayer clinic funds

After teetering on the brink of a hung jury, the trial of former State Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. ended Monday in guilty verdicts on four counts stemming from allegations that he embezzled taxpayer funds meant to help poor patients and spent them on personal expenses.

U.S. District Judge Frederic Bloc declared a mistrial on four other counts against Espada and on all charges against the politician's son and co-defendant, Pedro Gautier Espada. The jury -- in its 11th day of deliberations in federal court in Brooklyn -- had told the judge it was hopelessly deadlocked on the undecided counts.

It was not clear if prosecutors would seek a retrial.

During the past week, the jurors had sent the judge separate notes saying that one juror was refusing to deliberate, that they wanted to give up and -- finally late last week -- that they had only a partial verdict. In each instance, the judge urged them to keep trying.

Given the unusual length of the deliberations, "It appears to have been a compromise verdict," said Espada's attorney, Susan Necheles.

She called it a "sad day" for the Espadas but said her client was "a very resolute person."

Espada was at the center of the two most tumultuous years in the history of the New York Senate. He has described the scrutiny by the U.S. Attorney's Office and then-State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo as a political "witch hunt." The scandal cost him his Senate seat.

"Those who would abuse the public trust have a pointed lesson in the downfall of former Senator Espada Today the jury spoke loud and clear making Mr. Espada a convicted felon," Gov. Cuomo said.

The trial, which lasted nearly six weeks, was a landslide of paperwork that delved into the intricate financial dealings of a low-income health care network run by the Espadas.

The Bronx Democrat started Soundview clinics in 1978 in the South Bronx in one of the poorest counties in the U.S. In the past three decades, the clinic grew to include four centers that provide health care and social services. Espada's son, Pedro Gautier, 38, ran the business with his father.

Prosecutors introduced scores of checks, bank statements and credit card bills that they said detailed a secret scam in which the Espadas would pilfer funds out of Soundview Health Care Network by overcharging for cleaning fees paid to a separate company they also owned. They spent the money on tickets to sporting events, birthday parties, theater and fancy cars, prosecutors said.

Espada, 58, rose from a poor street fighter in Puerto Rico to a Fordham University graduate to manipulator of Albany's political power structure.

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