By Ivan Pereira
A Manhattan judge has postponed the much-delayed misdemeanor trial for City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) until after his primary, but the beleaguered elected official said he is focused on other matters.
Wills, who is facing four candidates next month in the special election to remain the representative of the 28th Council District, was flanked by an entourage of clergy members when he went to his hearing at Manhattan Criminal Court Aug. 17.
That was supposed to be the first day of his trial on charges of petit larceny, criminal trespass and criminal mischief charges dating back to 1996, but the judge pushed it back to Oct. 7 for undisclosed reasons, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office said.
Lupe Todd, the councilman’s spokeswoman, declined to comment about the reason behind the date change or why he went to court with the group. Wills got defensive with reporters outside the court when asked if the 15-year-old case compromises his tenure in office.
“You know what? That’s a matter of opinion,” he said, according to the New York Post.
Wills, 40, is accused of breaking into Inner City Communications, a PR firm that was based in Chinatown, on Aug. 16, 1996, and damaging a wall before removing a fan and track lighting. Prosecutors contend that he was retaliating against the firm after it fired him over some contracting work.
He initially agreed to pay restitution to the firm’s owners, but did not show up in court despite several bench warrants that were issued by a judge, the latest being in September 1996.ï»¿
The case was reopened in March after it was revealed in a published reportï»¿ along with another open misdemeanor case in Nassau County Criminal Court. Despite several hearings over the last couple of months, Wills was not able to come to an agreement with prosecutors and will face trial for the charges.
He was elected last fall following the death of Thomas White, who had served eight months into his second term of office. As part of the special election, Wills must run again this fall to determine whether he or another candidate will continue to serve out the remainder of White’s term for the district, which includes the neighborhoods of Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale and South Ozone Park.
As of press time Tuesday, he had three challengers in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary: Michael Duvalle, Clifton Stanley Diaz and former Councilman Allan Jennings. Two of the candidates listed on the city Campaign Finance Board, David Kayode and Stephen Jones, were removed from the city Board of Elections’ candidates list for undisclosed reasons.
There were no registered Republicans running for the seat as of press timeï»¿.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.