Politicians, lawyers, business executives and at least one celebrity are supporting a popular Caribbean newspaper publisher in New York who is charged in a public corruption prosecution in Washington federal district court.
Karl Rodney, 73, publisher of Carib News, is charged with duping members of Congress about the source of funding for trips to his conferences in the Caribbean.
Rodney, according to prosecutors, claimed his foundation alone sponsored the trips for members of Congress even though foreign governments provided funding and corporations paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the foundation for the conferences.
Rodney pleaded guilty this year. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan set sentencing for July 22. Rodney’s lawyer, Charles Ogletree Jr., a Harvard Law School professor, filed hundreds of pages of letters this week in the hope of convincing Sullivan not to send Rodney to prison. Rodney faces an advisory sentencing range of probation to six months in jail.
Singer and actor Harry Belafonte, in a letter to the court, urged Sullivan to consider Rodney’s “exemplary leadership dedication” and his commitment to the Caribbean community. Belafonte said he is one of Rodney's longtime friends.
In another letter, Prime Minister of Jamaica Bruce Golding said Rodney is respected for his “outstanding leadership.” Carib News, Golding said, “does more than publishing news." Golding said the paper seeks to "build greater cohesiveness” in the Caribbean-American community.
“Karl Rodney has been for decades a Caribbean icon in the tri-state area,” Golding said. “I am personally distressed at the possibility of his incarceration and the impact that this would have on his service to the Caribbean-American community and to the Caribbean states as a whole.”
A retired president of the Court of Appeal, in Jamaica, said in a June 30 letter to Sullivan that Rodney is “a person of unquestioned integrity and honesty.”
“I cannot cease to ask myself what cruel twist of fate has served to thrust Mr. Rodney into this most uncharacteristic set of circumstances,” P.T. Harrison said in the letter. “I am yet to find the right response.”
Marc Morial, president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League, described Rodney in a letter as a “selfless and productive and very enthusiastic” advocate for the Caribbean community.
Former New York Mayor David Dinkins said in a note to the judge that he’s known Rodney for more than 40 years.
“Few have equaled Karl Rodney’s commitment as an honored member of the publishing world and his distinguished service as a community leader,” said Dinkins, who teaches public affairs at Columbia University. “We are hopeful that he might be encouraged to continue to contribute, and to retain the high regard he has always enjoyed.”
Several lawyers wrote to Sullivan asking him for leniency. Robert Longman, of counsel to Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman, in New York, called Rodney a “pillar of the community.”
Labor attorney Basil Paterson, a partner at New York’s Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, said, “as a practicing attorney for over 50 years, I seek not to diminish the severity of the offense for which he is charged; but I deeply believe that justice will be served if leniency prevails.”
Justice Department public corruption prosecutors Kate Albrecht and Justin Shur said in court papers filed June 29 that Rodney’s crime “has serious implications for the public, undermining the public confidence in elected representatives and in the legitimacy of members’ travel on official business.”
Rodney, the prosecutors said, showed “substantial disrespect for the law” when he continued to conceal the funding sources for conferences in 2007 and in 2008. Albrecht and Shur recommended a guideline sentence of zero to six months in prison.