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Prosecutor: Pataki Team Took Bribes

July 11, 2000 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ A Republican fund-raiser teamed with a top campaign aide to Gov. George Pataki to solicit bribes from parents of violent felons on the promise their children would win parole, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The fund-raiser, New Jersey businessman Yung Soo Yoo, ``decided to put up for sale your state criminal justice system,″ Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Giordano said during opening statements at Yoo’s political corruption trial.

No one close to Pataki has been charged, and Giordano said there is no evidence the governor knew about the alleged scheme involving $36,000 in contributions to ``Friends of Pataki.″ The campaign aide, Patrick Donahue, has not been charged.

But three parole officials have been charged or convicted of lying to investigators, and some of the governor’s top aides have been called to testify before a grand jury.

Defense attorney Nicholas DeFeis labeled the charges against Yoo, 63, ``a fairy tale.″

``No one promised anyone their kids would get out of jail in exchange for contributions,″ he said.

Donahue’s attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Prosecutors allege Donahue and Yoo, who also helped raise funds for former senators Alfonse D’Amato and Bob Dole in the Korean-American community, brokered deals with three sets of parents for Donahue to seek the release of their children through a ``pipeline″ leading from the governor’s office to the parole board.

During one clandestine meeting, Donahue told an anxious mother, ``Give me three more months and I’ll make good,″ Giordano said.

Giordano told the jury that a former parole official would testify that two board members voted to release an armed robber and gang member, John Kim, in 1996 after the official secretly informed them: ``The governor’s office wants this kid released.″ Records show Kim’s parents, who live in Queens, contributed $7,000 to the Pataki campaign, she said.

The case against Yoo stems from an ongoing federal investigation into allegations of influence peddling by Pataki aides. The investigation began after a man went to police in 1997 complaining that Yoo and Donahue failed to deliver on their guarantee to free his son for $20,000 in donations.

If convicted, Yoo faces up to 10 years in prison.

On Tuesday, another parent, Incha Chung, testified Yoo assured her a $10,000 contribution would buy freedom for her son once Pataki was elected. She said the defendant was known as ``President Yoo″ in Korean-American circles.

``I know something like that is possible in Korea,″ Chung recalled saying to Yoo about the bribe. ``Is that do-able here?″

``Yes, it is possible in America by the governor’s authority,″ she said Yoo replied.

Chung’s son is still serving time for attempted murder.