An effort by attorneys for Congressmember Michael Grimm to push back the start of his trial for fraud and tax evasion to early January was turned down by Federal Eastern District Judge Pamela Chen during a brief court session on the morning of Tuesday, September 2.
Chen upheld a schedule proposed by prosecutors in which jury selection would begin on December 1 in the trial of the Republican congressmember, a former Marine and former FBI agent, who has represented Staten Island and portions of Brooklyn since 2011.
Grimm’s lawyers had argued that beginning the trial so soon after the election cycle closes could potentially be detrimental to Grimm’s receiving a fair trial, because of planned Democratic ads that include “snippets” of the press conference held by U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch in which the 20-count indictment against Grimm was unveiled. Grimm – like all members of the House of Representatives – is up for reelection this year. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him.
The court, said Chen, deals with, “Lots of cases of significant notoriety every single day, and we will deal with it the way we deal with any other case. I don’t think there is any way we are going to find a jury that hasn’t heard anything about the case.”
All the charges – including five counts of mail fraud, five counts of wire fraud, three counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false federal tax returns, one count of conspiring to defraud the United States, one count of impeding the Internal Revenue Service, one count of health care fraud, one count of engaging in a pattern or practice of hiring and continuing to employ unauthorized aliens, two counts of perjury and one count of obstructing an official proceeding — arise from a business Grimm owned, Healthalicious, a small fast food eatery in Manhattan. Federal officials have alleged that the congressmember under-reported income at the restaurant by more than $1 million, and paid employees hundreds of thousands of dollars in wages “off the books.”
The charges grew out of a two-year-long probe, likely into Grimm’s campaign finances. He will face Democratic candidate Domenic Recchia in the November 4 general election. Grimm took office after defeating one-term Democratic incumbent Michael McMahon, who ran successfully for the seat against Republican Robert Straniere after long-term incumbent Republican Vito Fossella declined to run for re-election in the wake of the revelation that the married pol with a family on Staten Island had a second family in the suburbs of Washington D.C.
Should Grimm be convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
Grimm had no comment after his court appearance, walking rapidly through a crowd of reporters and photographers, flanked by his attorneys, and ducking into a waiting car.