19th Senate District Race: Pierre’s Criminal Conviction Puts Candidacy In Question


As competing media stories play out on the extent of criminality of 19th Senatorial District candidate Sam Pierre, the fate of his making the ballot will likely play out on today’s Working Families Party decision on whether they will carry him on their party line for the November 3 special election.

The brouhaha started yesterday when the New York Post reported that Pierre, 30, and the Executive Director of the Haitian American Caucus, pled guilty in November 2013 to a federal misdemeanor charge of being involved in fleecing Haitians of more than $11,000 after promising to help them solve immigration problems.

The crime occurred in 2008, when Pierre, then 23, worked in the office of former Congressman Ed Towns. He paid a $5,000 fine and was sentenced to three years’ probation – including three months of home confinement.

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte
Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte

On the other side, the Observer reported today, that Midwood Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte blasted the Post story as a smear campaign that Kings County Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio and Law Chair Frank Carone orchestrated to stop the Working Families Party away from putting Pierre on their ballot line against their endorsed candidate, Assemblywoman Roxanne Persaud.

Both Bichotte and Pierre are strongly aligned with the WFP and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and her mother, former councilwoman and power broker Una Clarke, in the emergence of new left-leaning Caribbean-Americans either holding elected office or being heavily involved in local politics.

On the other side, Seddio remains highly influential with both Borough President Eric Adams and his supporters in native born black American and white strongholds. He also has a good working relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who in turn, has a good relationship with both factions.

The Observer piece mentions that the criminal complaint, “noted Mr. Pierre contacted federal authorities on behalf of several people who reached out, but that the host—a childhood friend of Mr. Pierre’s—illegally pocketed thousands of dollars from the interested immigrants, some of which Mr. Bharara’s office alleged was passed along in some form to Mr. Pierre.”

Neither Pierre or Bichotte could be reached as this story goes to post, but Pierre told the Observer he was guilty of only taking a few t-shirts and meals, and apologized.

“Like everyone, I made mistakes when I began my first job out of college. One of those mistakes, unfortunately, ran contrary to congressional ethics rules, and upon learning this and speaking extensively with the federal prosecutors, I stood up and took responsibility for that mistake,” he told reporters. “I apologize sincerely for what mistakes I have made, but I will not let them be misstated or exaggerated.”

What makes the overall story even more compelling is both sides are taking the upcoming special election personally. On Bichotte’s part, she’s Pierre’s first cousin, and both her and Pierre have strongly stated feelings that it is time for Brooklyn’s large Haitian-American community to assert themselves in local politics.

Persaud, a black Guyanese-American, has refused comment on the story.

Kings County Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio
Kings County Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio

For Seddio’s part, the senatorial district includes Canarsie, where he was born and raised in the district, which he once represented in the assembly. While the district, which also includes East New York, Mill Basin and a square of Sheepshead Bay, is now a majority of American- and Caribbean-born blacks, it also includes a large minority of whites including Jews, Italians and Russians.

The competing stories comes as the WFP New York City Advisory Committee made up of party affiliates (unions and community groups) as well as NYC clubs and chapters will make a final recommendation today on who to endorse in the race.

After the AC takes a vote, it goes to the officers who have the legal authority to grant a Wilson-Pakula, which is required for a non-WFP-registered candidate to carry the party line on the ballot.

The WFP Brooklyn Chapter has already endorsed Pierre, but it is no slam dunk the AC will go along with the endorsement.

“The AC usually does accept the recommendation of a WFP chapter, but there have been exceptions, so nothing is written in stone at this point. Also, it is possible, although extremely unlikely, for the officers to not support the AC’s endorsement,” said a WFP source.