ALBANY, N.Y. (AP)—A New York state senator accused of attacking a New York Post photographer was acquitted Tuesday of a felony assault charge that would have cost him his seat, but was convicted of misdemeanor criminal mischief.
Democratic Sen. Kevin Parker, who won a fifth term in November, still could face a sentence of up to a year in jail for the misdemeanor conviction stemming from the 2009 scuffle, according to
Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan. The Republican prosecutor handled the politically charged case in state court in Brooklyn, where Parker's district is located.
Immediately after the jury's decision, Parker rushed to Albany, where his vote was needed to move a bill out of committee into a special session. The bill would rescue New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. from bankruptcy and save the jobs of about 1,000 workers, most of them represented by an influential union.
Prosecutors said Post photographer William Lopez's finger was broken after Parker grabbed Lopez's camera in May 2009, although Parker was acquitted of felony and misdemeanor assault. Parker at the time was facing foreclosure of his home. The photographer's car was also damaged.
"I believe that this prosecution demonstrated that no one is above the law," said Donovan, who lost his race for state attorney general in November. "Regardless of your status in society, even if you are a state senator like Kevin Parker, we are all equal before the law."
Parker didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sentencing is set for Jan. 11.
Although a misdemeanor conviction doesn't automatically expel a senator, the Senate - which will be controlled by Republicans come January - could seek its own punishment. In February, the Democrat-controlled Senate voted 53-8 to oust Democratic Sen. Hiram Monserrate following his misdemeanor assault conviction for dragging his girlfriend in what police said was a domestic violence case. Monserrate was acquitted of a felony assault charge.
"They will decide themselves whether this is conduct becoming a senator," Donovan said. "I have no recommendation for them."
The jury acquitted Parker of felony and misdemeanor assault, attempted grand larceny connected with the camera, and third-degree criminal mischief. If convicted of felony assault, Parker could have been sentenced to up to seven years in prison.
Associated Press writer Tom Hays in New York contributed to this report.