Only on 13: After acquittal, Rensselaer County executive says he was target of political attack
Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin says he survived a political assassination attempt against him for his outspoken Republican views.
He spoke exclusively to NewsChannel 13 a day after he was acquitted of using campaign money to pay a personal debt and falsifying records related to the transaction.
“This should be a national story about what was done here. Because it is a glaring, shining example of the weaponization of the attorney general’s office to target an American citizen who is innocent,” McLaughlin said Thursday, speaking from the county office building in East Greenbush.
The two-day trial was prosecuted by the attorney general’s office. The defense did not call any witnesses. The jury returned a ‘not guilty’ verdict in an hour—the fastest in McLaughlin’s attorney’s careers, he said. Attorneys Thomas Capezza and Benjamin Hill made up his defense team.
“They should hang their head in shame. At the very least, they should apologize to me. But I guarantee Tish James doesn’t have the integrity or dignity to do that,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin points to Attorney General Letitia James herself as the origin of the nearly five-year investigation.
“She’s corrupt, and she’s biased, and I would say there’s an element of racism in here as well,” he said.
Asked by NewsChannel 13 to elaborate, McLaughlin said, “She tends to target white Republican males especially. She’s got a lot to answer for here.”
NewsChannel 13 reached out to James’ office about his remarks. The office did not comment Thursday, but James said in part in a statement after a verdict, “While I am disappointed in the jury’s finding today, I respect their decision. I am proud of the case we brought before the court and stand by our efforts to hold County Executive McLaughlin accountable.”
McLaughlin said his status as an outspoken Republican voice in a state run by Democrats has made him a target of baseless accusations.
“And if they can do that to a sitting, duly elected official, what message does that send to the people of New York? The message that was sent is clear: you better shut up, and you better play ball with the far Left, or we’re coming after you. and if we have to make it up, we don’t care,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said he isn’t ready to reveal how much he’s had to spend on defending himself, but said, ironically, that some of that money will come out of his campaign account.
He pointed out that he’s hardly served a day as county executive without the investigation hanging over his head. He said he looks forward to getting back to work.