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Cohoes Mayor Pleads Not Guilty In Federal Court

In U.S. District Court in Albany today, Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse pleaded not guilty to charges involving alleged misuse of political campaign funds. .

For months, Democratic Mayor Shawn Morse has defied calls to resign amid domestic violence allegations and questions about his campaign account.

On Thursday, the FBI came to arrest him.

Morse was arraigned on a seven-count indictment: One count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and a count of making a false statement. If convicted he could face up to 25 years in prison and fines that could run as high as $500,000.

Through his attorney William Dreyer, Morse pleaded not guilty to all charges and he was released on his own recognizance. Morse, in his first term after a long tenure in the county legislature, did not speak to reporters on his way out of court before getting into a curbside vehicle.

Later, he wrote on Facebook: “This is my one and only statement. Thank you for all the love and support! This is the last hurdle we face. I am confident this will be over soon and we will finally have this all behind us.”

Many Democrats, including Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, have called for Morse’s resignation. Albany County Legislature Chairman Andrew Joyce issued a statement Thursday calling on Morse to step down, and Gov. Cuomo told WAMC Thursday he believes Morse should go. "All I know is what I read in the newspaper, but there are obviously serious charges on the mayor," said Cuomo. Alan Chartock asked "You still think he should resign?"  Cuomo responded "Yes."

Morse's campaign manager says the charges were not unexpected. Tom Scarff spoke with reporters at the courthouse.   "It's interesting that the governor and our state and local elected officials all signed a petition after the governor came out and sais Shawn should resign, saying that Shawn should resign. And then very shortly after that the FBI investigated him. Now I do believe that the FBI is a solid, independent organization, so whether the allegations of physical abuse that were unfounded had something to do with them investigating his finances, I don't know."

Morse, elected in 2015, is running for another term this year along several other declared candidates, including former State Police Major Bill Keeler:  "It's a sad day for Cohoes, but I have faith in our justice system and out of respect for the Morse family I prefer not to comment further."
Morse didn’t answer a message left on his cell phone.

During an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon, the Cohoes Common Council approved a non-binding resolution asking Morse to resign or take a leave of absence. 

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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