Mayor Warren pleads guilty in campaign finance trial

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A plea deal has been reached in the case against Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren on alleged campaign finance violations and Mayor Warren has pleaded guilty.

Under the deal, Mayor Warren will plead guilty to an election law violation and get one misdemeanor charge, admitting to “knowingly and willfully contributed, accepted campaign donations in an amount more than the maximum amount specified.”

This will also satisfy the gun and child endangerment charges against her that stem from the New York State Police raid of her house back in May.

Joe Damelio, Mayor Warren’s lawyer: "I’m not going to talk about that because there was given and take by both sides here. So it certainly wasn’t the mayor that was the obstacle in our plea negotiations."

Mike Schiano, lawyer for Rosalind Brooks-Harris: "We received a letter, a call from DA’s office last week with a potential to a resolution to a misdemeanor and we’ve just been hammering it out for the last couple, actually a few hours here today."

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "When did this whole negotiating thing start?"

John Demarco, attorney for Albert Jones Jr.: "I would say last night in earnest, and substantively we started to have a dialogue about possible resolutions. Kind of broke off last night but resumed this morning."

The penalty is one year conditional discharge, and Mayor Warren must resign no later than Dec. 1, 2021.

All three defendants had to agree to the last-minute plea deal, or the trial against all three would move forward.

Our sources tell us, the plea deal originally required the immediate resignation of the mayor but they settled on Dec. 1.

Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Jacob Ark: "There were a lot of negotiations throughout the day and we came up with a final determination of December 1 and that’s all I’m really gonna say about that."

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke: "A lot of people might look at this and say it’s a slap on the wrist she got a conditional discharge and she got forced to resign one month early."

Ark: "The offer from the people was not a conditional discharge, we left it open to the court and the court’s discretion. A misdemeanor is one thing versus a felony that’s another thing but we did leave it up to the court’s discretion for an open pre-sentence investigation."

"The mayor was willing to, all three defendants really were willing to take responsibility today," Ark said. "Obviously, the mayor will no longer be mayor on January 1 one way or another prior to today. It was time to I think, it’s time for the community and the city to put this past us and the mayor was willing and her co-defendants were willing to take responsibility and did so today we found it to be an equitable resolution."

Ark said there is still a Child Proective Services investigation ongoing into the mayor after a gun that was not registered to either her or her husband was allegedly found in the home that they share with their daughter.

The Board of Elections Grievance Committee is also continuing to investigate, Ark said.

Deputy Mayor James Smith will take over as mayor after Mayor Warren resigns. Current City Councilman Malik Evans won the Democratic Primary Election for mayor back in June and is the presumed next mayor of Rochester. The next mayoral term starts on Jan. 1, 2022.

The mayor, and two of her former campaign finance officials are accused of running a scheme to defraud. The other two officials are Albert Jones and city finance director Rosalind Brooks-Harris.

Prosecutors say they directed people who maxed out contributions to the mayor’s campaign to donate more money to a separate Political Action Committee – which then funneled the money to the mayor’s campaign.

Warren’s trial was delayed by several hours Monday after she showed up at the Hall of Justice in Rochester around 9:40 a.m. The two other officials also showed up. According to Brean, prosecutors have remained in the jury room.

Jones and Brooks-Harris have remained on the fourth floor, where the courtroom is.

A month before the indictment, the mayor called the problem an accounting mistake and said the investigation was political, saying "Come January, I’ll be running for reelection and I believe this is a political witch hunt."

Check out Berkeley Brean’s breakdown of the whole case here.

Though Warren’s plea deal does address the weapons and child endangerment charges she and her husband, Timothy Granison, are facing in a separate case, Granison is still facing those charges.