Vindication? George Maziarz Accepts Plea Deal as Prosecution Lacks Evidence for Trial

It was just a year ago that Democratic State Atty. General Eric Schneiderman unloaded on two top Niagara County Republican figures in a headline-grabbing announcement that featured a total of eight felony counts.


Now, a year later, Schneiderman has egg on his face after the much- hyped cases against former State Sen. George Maziarz of Newfane and current State Sen. Robert Ortt of North Tonawanda have yielded a misdemeanor plea and a $1,000  fine, both for Maziarz, and the dismissal of all counts against Ortt.


Schneiderman, who once served in the State Senate with Maziarz on the other side of the political aisle during the “2009 coup” when Republicans and Maziarz briefly took control, must be licking his wounds over the beating he took in these two criminal cases.


In fact, we have learned just how little Albany County Judge Peter Lynch, who previously dismissed three felonies against Ortt last June, apparently regarded the case against Maziarz, who was charged with secretly funneling campaign money to a former staffer who had left government service amid involvement in a sexual harassment case.


Here is what we have learned about what led up to the surprising Maziarz plea last Friday (March 2), three days before the trial was to start, to a single misdemeanor count of offering a false instrument for  filing.


According to legal sources, the judge suggested to the prosecution that they offer a misdemeanor plea, and told the defense they “ought” to take a misdemeanor if it is offered and they could walk away with a $1,000 fine.


Clearly, Judge Lynch did not believe the stakes were big enough in the case to proceed with a trial and suggested to both sides get rid of it.


The plea was offered and accepted.


Case closed, a stinging blow to Schneiderman.


As one legal observer noted, Scheiderman is not getting much out of these high profile cases and has left himself open to the charges that started early on from Ortt that they were politically motivated and lacked any legal basis.


For Maziarz, the onetime king of Niagara County Republican politics, the result is a chance to move on, with one of his attorneys, E. Stewart Jones, saying the dismissal of all  five felonies and the misdemeanor plea “was a win- win for George Maziarz.”


Schneiderman countered that the guilty plea sends a message to public officials not to abuse the public trust because you will be caught and there will be a public accounting.


Maybe so, but if you are going to prosecute public officials, make sure you have a solid case and don’t proceed to just to get a headline.


Certainly, the whole matter has been unpleasant for Maziarz and very expensive.


However, Maziarz was able to use his sizeable war chest to pay for his defense, so his only personal cost was the $1,000 fine.


For Ortt, the matter is completely closed.


He had been charged with padding his former North Tonawanda mayoral salary and using the Niagara County Republican Committee, which Maziarz once controlled, to provide an alleged no-show job for his wife.


But Judge Lynch dismissed the three felonies last June for lack of evidence.


Furthermore, any witnesses who had been likely to testify about GOP operations will not be heard in any public forum.


For Schneiderman, he comes up empty in his high-profile prosecution of two top Republican  figures in Niagara County.


The Schneiderman camp is trying hard to spin it into a victory, but Maziarz is walking away with a misdemeanor and Senator Ortt is free and clear, so is it really a victory?


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