12:26 pm Sep. 13, 2012
After news broke earlier this week that federal authorities had tapped several phones belonging to City Comptroller John Liu, dating back to early 2010, a reporter jokingly emailed me with a confession.
"If I had ten wiretaps on me," this person said, "I'm sure I'd be in prison by now for something."
The new court filing indicates the government had been monitoring Liu long before the arrest of his campaign treasurer and a top fund-raiser, and defense attorneys for the fund-raiser, Xing Wu Pan, said it showed an "obsession" on the part of investigators to implicate the comptroller in a crime.
A labor leader I spoke with recently took a similar view.
"It's 18 months and John Liu still has not been charged and it just shows how intense the desire was to find something, anything, to pin on him," said Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union.
"I think it's time for people to say whether or not they have anything to charge the comptroller with and if not, this should end. They should let him get back to focusing on the people's business."
Appelbaum did not discuss Liu's political viability heading into next year's citywide elections. But clearly, he said, news that authorities have been trying for this long to bust the comptroller says more about the investigators' motives than about Liu's behavior.
"Wiretaps, and they still haven't come up with a charge," he said. "To me, it seems like a witch hunt, that they decided they wanted to find something on John Liu before they even knew what it might be."
Liu has not been charged with a crime, but the cases against his treasurer and fund-raiser are expected to last for several months.
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