Judge tells Rochester mayor she'll get no special treatment if convicted on campaign finance, fraud charges

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, a onetime rising star in the Democratic Party who faces corruption charges that could end her career — and land her behind bars — appeared in a Monroe County courtroom Monday to plead not guilty to all charges.

Warren, 43, is accused of bypassing campaign contribution limits when she successfully ran for reelection as mayor in 2017.

Cayuga County Judge Thomas Leone will preside over her case in Monroe County to possibly avoid any judicial ties to the mayor.

“In my 14 years on the bench, I’ve never told my administrative judge ‘no,’ so here I am in Rochester today,” he said.

Appearing via a live stream at Monroe County Supreme Court, Warren sat cross-legged in the courtroom’s first row wearing a lilac face mask and a white coat.

Leone didn’t mince words in releasing the embattled mayor from custody as her court case plays out.

“Ms. Warren, I am going to release you on your own recognizance,” the judge said, further warning her not to get into “any trouble.”

“If you are convicted of the most serious charges here — well, they’re all Class E felonies — I’ll show you absolutely no consideration whatsoever, and I will sentence you to prison, do you understand that?” he added.

“Yes,” Warren solemnly responded.

Warren was indicted on first-degree scheme to defraud and election law violation by a Rochester grand jury on Friday. The charges came after a years-long investigation into her 2017 reelection campaign, prosecutors said.

Warren’s campaign treasurer, Albert Jones Jr., and treasurer Rosalind Brooks-Harris of the political action committee “Warren for a Strong Rochester” also face charges in the case. Brooks-Harris is also Rochester City’s finance director.

The mayor could serve up to four years in prison if convicted; she also faces disbarment and pension loss, per state law.

Warren’s attorney, Joe Damelio, said his client asked him to enter a plea of not guilty on her behalf. On Friday, he told reporters she intended to continue serving Rochester’s people as mayor while her case plays out.

Critics of Warren last month condemned her decision to keep quiet about police body-camera footage of Daniel Prude’s March 23 arrest.

The video shows police pressing the 41-year-old Black man into the pavement and putting a spit hood over his head. Prude died of the grievous injuries he sustained in the attack.

Warren claimed she remained mum about the video as state Attorney General Letitia James was still investigating it. She later suspended the seven officers seen assaulting Prude on video and fired Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary.

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