BY TRONE DOWD
Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), the Southeast Queens representative caught up in a web of controversy due to allegations that he used $30,000 taxpayer money for personal use, was found guilty on five criminal counts Thursday evening.
The jury made their decision after two days of deliberation, concluding the three year case that the New York State Attorney General had against the politician.
Wills was found guilty of one count of a scheme to defraud in the first degree, two counts of grand larceny in the third degree, and two counts of filing a false instrument in the first degree. He was acquitted on a single charge for filing false business records.
According to State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, state law says the councilman will be automatically expelled from the New York City Council. Wills faces a maximum of seven years behind bars.
“Ruben Wills’ crimes were a shameful violation of the public trust. Now, after a conviction by a jury of his peers, Ruben Wills will face the consequences,” Schneiderman said. “Ruben Wills stole taxpayer dollars to buy fancy purses and clothes for himself and his friends. New Yorkers deserved better. Today’s conviction is another important step in our efforts to clean up New York politics and give voters the representation they deserve.”
In a conversation with the Queens Tribune shortly after the jury’s decision, Wills said that he was “disappointed in the verdict.”
“I’m innocent,” he said. “We’re going to appeal on this and win. I think there’s a lot of constitutional violations that happened.”
Wills pointed to that fact that many of his witnesses, including state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), were dismissed by Queens County Judge Ira Margulis before they could testify before the jury.
Wills’ attorney, Kevin O’Donnell, told the Queens Tribune that they are confident in their ability to appeal the decision.
“We’re devastated,” O’Donnell said. “Having got to know Ruben, and his constituency, his character. This is a tough one to swallow. I thought with the circumstantial evidence charge that it would be clear that there was another explanation of innocence. I wish the jury had looked at the charge a little deeper.”
The trial of Councilman Wills had been a long time coming. After more than three years of delays, the trial finally kicked off at July 5.
Sentencing is currently scheduled for Aug. 10.