By Trone Dowd, Editor
The long-awaited conclusion in the trial of Southeast Queens Councilman Ruben Wills, who was convicted of spending taxpayer funds for personal use, came to a close Thursday morning as a Queens criminal court judge sentenced Wills to two to six years in prison.
Earlier this month, Wills had been found guilty of five counts of corruption following a jury trial.
In addition to the time he’ll serve in prison, Wills will be forced to pay nearly $33,000 in restitution—$11,500 to the city’s Campaign Finance Board and $21,374 to the state’s Office of Children and Family Services OCFS. He will also have to pay a $5,000 fine.
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said that he was satisfied with the verdict and hoped that it would set a precedent on how New York handles corruption.
“New Yorkers deserve public servants whose priority is the needs of their constituents, not lining their own pockets,” Schneiderman said. “Instead of spending taxpayer money on projects to help his community, Ruben Wills betrayed the public trust by stealing tens of thousands for himself – and he’ll now pay the price.”
Wills’ attorney, Kevin O’Donnell, had differing opinions on the case.
“Society does not benefit from this man going to jail,” O’Donnell told Judge Ira Margulis shortly before the sentencing. “This is a man who tried to heal his community. He has personally diffused situations in his community. Put his life in danger. He’s helped people in their times of loss. Not as a councilman. But as a Christian and as a human being. He’s going to continue to do work in the community. It is up to you to decide when he’ll be able to do that.”
For the first time since the trial began, Wills spoke out on the record to convey his feelings on the sentencing. He maintained that he was innocent of his crimes.
“I ran for office with the intent of changing the inequities that I have seen in my community,” Wills said through tears. “From day one, I did everything I could to protect people. It has nothing to do with me in the city council. I have given my life to my community and I will continue to do that for as long as I am physically able.”
Wills seat is currently being contested by a number of Southeast Queens Democrats, including Community Board 12 chairwoman Adrienne Adams, activist Richard David and attorney Hettie Powell.