A Manhattan criminal defense lawyer and his crooked paralegal sidekick hired a “man on the inside” to funnel cases their way, prosecutors said at the start of their trial Friday.
Benjamin Yu, 37, the attorney, and legal professional Jose Nunez, 49, are on trial for bribery and conspiracy in Manhattan Supreme Court at 100 Centre St., the same building they allegedly ran their shady business for about a year starting in September 2013.
“That conspiracy corrupted the heart of our criminal justice system,” Assistant District Attorney Samuel Levy said in his opening statement.
Levy said the pair hired Criminal Justice Agency employee Luis Veras Rodriguez to recruit clients from in the bowels of the courthouse, central booking, where arrestees awaited their arraignments.
Rodriguez admittedly told the prospective clients tall tales about what Yu could do for them for a price, typically $1,500, Levy said.
Rodriguez “would boast about these defendants’ connections in the courthouse and warned the arrestees if they didn’t hire the defendant, it might be days before they saw a judge.”
“They saw a pipeline to an untapped reservoir of potential clients,” Levy argued.
Yu’s lawyer, Patrick Brackley, argued that Rodriguez was not really a public official who could have been bribed.
“You have a case that’s built upon a false premise,” Brackley said. “That false premise becomes that the CJA employee was acting as a public servant as if he were a police officer.”