NEW YORK — In October 2010, William F. Boyland Jr., a state assemblyman from the Brooklyn borough of New York City, shared fine cuts of meat, wine and whiskey with two businessmen who were trying to buy Boyland’s political influence.
The men met several more times over the next year — in a hotel room in Atlantic City, N.J., at a Manhattan restaurant and elsewhere — and their talk danced around sordid topics: payoffs, favors and schemes that they said they would hatch together.
The contents of those conversations are not in dispute; the businessmen were undercover agents with the FBI, in a corruption investigation that led to Boyland’s arrest on bribery and other charges in November 2011. Every conversation was recorded.
But Boyland’s intention in those recorded conversations — once seemingly so certain that Boyland, 43, had planned to plead guilty — is now the subject of dispute, and was at the heart of opening statements as his trial commenced in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on Monday.
A federal prosecutor, Robert L. Capers, laid out the government’s case, built on hours and hours of audio recordings, testimony from the undercover agents who worked the case and testimony from Boyland’s former chief of staff, Ryan Hermon, who pleaded guilty to bribery charges and is cooperating with the government.
One of Boyland’s lawyers, Nancy L. Ennis, told jurors a different narrative in her opening statement, that of a frustrated federal agent struggling to make a case. She said that Boyland became a government target only when the FBI was stonewalled in its investigation of its original target, former City Councilman Albert Vann. Agents first hoped to use Boyland to reach Vann, Ennis said, but focused on Boyland when that proved ineffective.
Ennis said, “They chased him like Ahab chasing Moby Dick.”
But she said that Boyland made them only “hollow promises.” She continued, “Most of the things they discussed never materialized.”
Boyland is accused of participating in four schemes in a 21-count indictment. Several of the counts stem from allegations that Boyland solicited and accepted bribes in exchange for helping a cooperating witness, who was posing as a carnival promoter, and an undercover agent set up lucrative carnivals in his district. Prosecutors said that in another scheme, Boyland said that he would set up a sweetheart real estate deal worth millions of dollars in exchange for $250,000.
Boyland is also accused of submitting false travel vouchers to the state Assembly and conspiring to steer state money into a nonprofit that he ran for his personal use. In 2011, he was acquitted of conspiracy to accept bribes in a federal trial in Manhattan.