Assemblywoman's bribery trial begins

March 14, 2008 7:13:58 AM PDT
A state lawmaker described her dream house to a developer angling for city-owned land and then suggested swapping favors, according to a hidden-camera videotape played at the legislator's bribery trial. "One hand washes the other," state Assemblywoman Diane Gordon told developer Ranjan Batheja on a tape played in court as Gordon's trial opened Thursday.

The Brooklyn legislator - who was re-elected after her 2006 indictment - has pleaded not guilty to bribe-receiving.

Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos said Thursday that Gordon demanded that Batheja build her a $500,000 house in a gated community - specifying even the granite countertops, cherry wood cabinets and bathroom Jacuzzis - and sell it to her for $1. In exchange, she offered to help him secure a $2 million piece of city property in the East New York section of Brooklyn, prosecutors say.

"Since I am the assemblywoman, I definitely need a detached home," Gordon told Batheja in a 2004 conversation the developer secretly taped. "You can make it happen."

Defense lawyer Danielle Eaddy argued in an opening statement that Gordon was entrapped by Batheja, who was cooperating with authorities to try to help his case in an unrelated legal matter.

Eaddy acknowledged her client "wanted a house either discounted or free," but said the lawmaker also wanted Batheja to get the land so he could build affordable housing for senior citizens.

Authorities say Gordon ultimately called off her deal with the developer, and Eaddy maintained the lawmaker wanted to pay for the home. Batheja did install a pair of French doors in her office for free, Spanakos said.

If convicted, Gordon faces a maximum prison term of 5 to 15 years.