NY CLS Penal § 195.00
A public servant is guilty of official misconduct when, with intent to obtain a benefit or deprive another person of a benefit:
1. He commits an act relating to his office but constituting an unauthorized exercise of his official functions, knowing that such act is unauthorized; or
2. He knowingly refrains from performing a duty which is imposed upon him by law or is clearly inherent in the nature of his office.
Official misconduct is a class A misdemeanor.
Granted, Coercion sounds more fun, especially in mixed company and after a few rounds of Jim Beam, but Official Misconduct could be more on point.
The problem is, does anyone really want to be charged, let alone convicted, of Official Misconduct? It's only a misdemeanor. It shows a true lack of ambition and imagination. Theoretically, jail time is possible, but just county time, not state pen time and few people can really pull-off an orange jumper. Not to mention the embarrassment:
Murder Defendant: What you in for, man?
Political Hack: Ummm....omphduct.
Murder Defendant: What?
Political Hack: mmph uct.
Murder Defendant: Say what?
Political Hack: Official Misconduct.
Murder Defendant: You steal money or sumfin'?
Political Hack: Uh...no....I used a city phone for political purposes.
Murder Defendant: Bitch!
The whole scenario is awkward and uncomfortable for everyone. Then, to establish any type of respect, you'll have to shiv someone in the shower. The whole thing could be a drag.
We don't know if Official Misconduct is applicable. You can decide for yourself. Perhaps the Special Prosecutor will consider this particular statute. Maybe the definition of 'benefit' is limited in scope. One side note, it appears that a conviction under this statute results in automatic removal from office. Period. End of story, even if the conviction is appealed.
So, we must keep in mind that the allegations may or may not constitute a crime. If there is a prosecution, there will be no jail time, just lots of good laughs as what comes around goes around.
These allegations are not about using a phone for a political campaign. Councilmen Wojcik and Krogh both work for the County of Rensselaer. Would it be wrong for them to phone a contributor from work, to....invite them to a fundraiser? Schedule a campaign meeting? Yes, it would be wrong. Would it be a big deal? No, people make mistakes, people get sloppy.
Here, the allegations really must be distilled to their essence: A conspiracy to lie to the voters and manipulate an election. It goes to the very heart of our democracy. It's no different than Watergate, albeit on a smaller, more pathetic stage. That's what we're talking about here, it's not merely about using a phone once or twice for something other than official city business.
One wonders if this incident will, much like the Valerie Plame matter, recede into the background as more serious allegations of corruption surface. Allegations that have nothing to do with Mr. Buell, Crawley or City Hall.
Remember though, this is Rensselaer County, where the official Ethical Standard is, "There was no indictment."
Thank you, you've been a great audience.