Video briefing: In southeast Queens, ‘corruption’ edges ‘conspiracy’

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For more than two hours last Friday night, a predominantly African-American audience in southeast Queens heard a debate about why the recent tide of corruption allegations in New York has so disproportionately affected officials and operatives who are black or Latino.

Was there just a momentary concentration of documentable acts of corruption among black and Latino officials? Or have those officials (and for that matter New York's top Asian-American official, John Liu) been victims of an unfair focus by prosecutors?

Former assemblyman Michael Benjamin argued for straight-up "corruption," and against the idea of a racial conspiracy, noting among other things that the two U.S. attorneys pursuing the allegedly corrupt officials are, respectively, Indian and black.

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Paul Nichols, the chief of staff to State Senator James Sanders, organized the event, at the Black Spectrum Theater, in Queens. He argued for the "conspiracy" side: that prosecutors, and the media that follows their lead, seemed to treat black and Latino political figures differently.

Nichols said he didn't excuse any illegal behavior, but that focus on allegedly corrupt mehavior needed to be distributed more fairly, from a racial perspective.

At the end of the debate, the audience voted for the side they thought was most convincing: "corruption" won, 27-24.

(The handful of reporters who were there didn't vote.)

You can see the full debate here.