NEW YORK — The star witness in the trial of the ex-head of New York City's jail guards union testified Wednesday that he tried to demand attention from Mayor Bill de Blasio when he didn't think he was getting his money's worth from contributions to the Democrat's mayoral campaign.
The witness, real estate developer Jona Rechnitz, came across at the corruption trial of Norman Seabrook as someone more successful at exaggerating his influence with politicians than winning favors.
Seabrook is on trial a second time on charges that he accepted $60,000 in bribes in a luxury bag that Rechnitz handed him. Prosecutors say he took the bribes to steer $20 million belonging to the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association to a hedge fund.
Seabrook has pleaded not guilty. A jury deadlocked at his first trial.
Rechnitz testified that he got people to contribute to de Blasio's mayoral campaign and made over $150,000 in donations to de Blasio's favorite initiatives only to grow frustrated that he wasn't getting help when he tried to get the city to solve some of his real estate problems.
When he learned at one point that de Blasio was trying to raise money, Rechnitz said he told one of de Blasio's aides that the mayor should call him himself. He said he got the call. A prosecutor showed jurors a photograph of the mayor with Rechnitz and two other men.
Eventually, he said, he served on the mayor's inaugural committee and on a mayoral commission on police corruption.
Rechnitz said he primarily wanted to be on the police corruption commission to tip off friends who were police officials if he learned that they were under investigation and so he could protect his own corrupt schemes to influence the department.
He said he now has regrets, including about obtaining credentials as a chaplain to police departments in Westchester County, New York City and a New York neighborhood even though he had no religious training. He said he did it to show off and use his chaplain parking permit to park where he wished.
"I made a mockery of religion," Rechnitz testified. "I made a mockery of chaplaincy and it's humiliating."
A spokesman for de Blasio declined to comment but has previously called Rechnitz a liar "trying to save his own skin."
Rechnitz, now living in Los Angeles, has pleaded guilty to charges and is testifying under a cooperation agreement in a bid for leniency at sentencing.