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Lawyer: Congressman Grimm to face federal charges

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AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., center, accompanied by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., left, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 7, 2011.

Updated Friday, April 25, 2014 | 6:20 p.m.

NEW YORK — Republican U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, who has been dogged by allegations of campaign violations since his first campaign for Congress in 2009 and 2010, is facing criminal charges from federal prosecutors, his lawyer said Friday.

A House Ethics Committee announced in November that Grimm was under investigation for possible campaign finance violations but said it would defer its inquiry because of a separate Department of Justice investigation.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn said Friday he couldn't confirm, deny or comment on the case. The FBI's New York office, which handles investigations, also declined to comment.

Grimm's attorney, William McGinley, said in a statement he wasn't surprised by the impending charges, which he didn't disclose. But he maintained the lawmaker had done nothing wrong.

"After more than two years of investigation plagued by malicious leaks, violations of grand jury secrecy, and strong-arm tactics, the U.S. Attorney's Office has disclosed its intent to file criminal charges against Congressman Grimm," he said in the statement. "When the dust settles, he will be vindicated."

Grimm made headlines in January after confronting on a Capitol balcony a New York cable news station reporter who tried to question him about a long-running FBI investigation into campaign finance.

After reporter Michael Scotto finished his report, Grimm stormed back, leaned into him and said, "If you ever do that to me again, I'll throw you off this (expletive) balcony."

Scotto, who was asking about fundraising during Grimm's first campaign, protested, saying he was asking "a valid question."

During that race, Grimm has acknowledged receiving $250,000 to $300,000 in contributions from followers of an Israeli rabbi. Some members of the rabbi's congregation subsequently said they made tens of thousands of dollars in illegal contributions, including gifts passed through straw donors.

Grimm has denied knowledge of any improprieties, and the FBI hasn't accused him of any wrongdoing. The Israeli businessman who served as Grimm's liaison to the rabbi's followers pleaded guilty in August to an immigration fraud charge.

Three days after that guilty plea, the FBI filed a sealed criminal complaint accusing a Houston woman named Diana Durand, who had been romantically involved with Grimm, of using straw donors to make illegal campaign contributions.

On Friday, Durand was indicted in Brooklyn on those charges. She also was charged with making false statements to the FBI when she said she didn't reimburse straw donors for their contributions to Grimm's campaign.

Attorney Stuart Kaplan said Durand would plead not guilty to the charges. Kaplan, who said Durand and Grimm met in Texas before Grimm ran for Congress, said he was hopeful prosecutors wouldn't join the two cases.

"When you take out their relationship, there's no evidence to connect either one with respect to complicity, violating the law by acting in concert or doing something as a criminal enterprise," he said.

A spokesman in Grimm's Washington office did not immediately return emails or a telephone message seeking comment Friday.

A House member who has been indicted does not lose any rights or privileges under federal law or the chamber's rules, according to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

Rules used by the two major political parties require indicted committee or subcommittee chairmen, or members of a party's leadership, to temporarily step aside. Grimm is not a chairman or a member of the leadership.

Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Michael Sisak contributed to this report from New York, and Alan Fram contributed from Washington, D.C.

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