Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and two others were hit today with felony charges. The criminal charges stem from campaign finance violations the trio allegedly committed during the last city mayoral race.
The criminal accusation comes as Warren faces calls to step down from community activists critical of her handling of Daniel Prude’s death at the hands of Rochester police.
Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley this afternoon announced an indictment handed up by a grand jury against Warren.
Two alleged confederates—Rochester Finance Director Rosalind Brooks-Harris and Albert Jones Jr.—are charged along with the mayor. Jones was treasurer of the Friends of Lovely Warren campaign committee. Brooks-Harris served as treasurer of the Warren for a Strong Rochester political action committee.
All three are charged with first-degree scheme to defraud and violation of election law 14-126(6); both are Class E felonies.
Warren previously dismissed the grand jury investigation that led to the criminal charges as “a political witch hunt.” As of late afternoon, she had not commented on the indictment.
At a news conference, Doorley responded to Warren’s contention about the nature of the investigation.
“This is not political,” Doorley said. “I am the chief law enforcement officer for Monroe County. I was presented with an investigation, I reviewed the facts, (my team) presented this case to a grand jury as we would any other case and the result is the indictment. … It is not political—I am simply doing my job.”
The district attorney also stressed that “this is an indictment, not a conviction; these are simply allegations of violations of the law. … The case must be tried in the courtroom; it must not be tried in the media.”
Reporters asked if Warren and her co-defendants had been cooperative during the investigation. Doorley said “at this point the mayor has counsel, so we could not speak to her directly.” Regarding Jones and Brooks-Harris, Doorley said: “As a matter of fact, they have (been cooperative). They spoke to investigators from the district attorney’s office regarding these allegations before the case went into grand jury.”
Responding to the news, City Council President Loretta Scott issued a statement: “Today, a grand jury indicted Mayor Warren and City Finance Director Brooks-Harris, and while I have not had the opportunity to review the indictment in detail, I am obviously saddened by this news. I believe in due process and that everyone is innocent until proven otherwise. I want to assure the community that the business of the City will continue uninterrupted.”
The district attorney’s investigation began with a state Board of Elections probe of violations allegedly committed during the most recent Rochester mayoral campaign. It was sparked by complaints filed James Sheppard, former Rochester police chief and current Monroe County legislator, and Rochester for All, a now-dormant organization connected to Monroe County legislator Rachel Barnhart.
In the 2017 mayoral race, Barnhart and Sheppard vied with Warren in the Democratic primary.
Rochester for All laid out the group’s allegations in a 2017 blog post detailing allegedly illegal money transfers and coordination between Warren’s campaign organization and the Warren for Rochester PAC.
Warren, Brooks-Harris and Jones are slated to be arraigned Monday in Monroe County by Cayuga County Judge Thomas Leone.
Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer.