By Daniel Wiessner
ALBANY N.Y.(Reuters) - New York state's highest court on Monday upheld the grand larceny conviction of former political consultant John Haggerty for stealing nearly $1 million from the 2009 campaign of then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Haggerty was in charge of organizing an extensive poll-watching operation funded by money that Bloomberg had transferred from a campaign trust to the state Independence Party. Bloomberg ran as the candidate of that party as well as the Republican party.
In 2011 Haggerty was sentenced to up to four years in prison for pocketing most of the money, nearly $1 million, and using it to purchase his childhood home in Queens.
On appeal, Haggerty argued that the trial court erred in allowing testimony by an attorney for the campaign trust intended to prove that the money belonged to Bloomberg. Instead, he said, prosecutors should have been required to submit original documents proving his ownership.
The Court of Appeals disagreed in a 6-0 decision.
"Based on the trial record, there is no significant probability that the jury would have failed to convict, even without (the attorney's) testimony or admission of the trust document," Judge Jenny Rivera wrote for the court.
Haggerty's attorney, Paul Shechtman of Zuckerman Spaeder, did not return a request for comment.
The Manhattan District Attorney's office declined to comment.
During the 2011 trial, Haggerty's lawyers sought to paint their client as a scapegoat for a win-at-all-costs mayor who did not care whether the poll-watching operation took place, as long as he stayed in power.
The trial provided the rare sight of Bloomberg himself taking the stand to testify against Haggerty. Under questioning from the defense team, Bloomberg was forced to discuss the spending on his self-financed $105 million campaign, a topic he generally avoided during his 12 years as mayor.
Haggerty's lawyers also said that by voluntarily transferring the money to the Independence Party, the mayor had effectively given up control of it, and therefore could not be a victim of theft.
The case is the People v. John Haggerty, New York State Court of Appeals No. 129.
(Additional reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Ted Botha and Steve Orlofsky)