Thursday, January 07, 2010

The journalism of verification: FCR's statement that it's not a target in Yonkers goes mostly unquestioned, though the feds won't confirm it

So, after the stunning news yesterday that Forest City Ratner was the unnamed, unindicted "Developer No. 2" cited in a Yonkers corruption scandal, the developer issued a statement saying it had cooperated fully with federal prosecutors and "has been advised by the U.S. Attorney's Office that neither the company nor any of its employees is a target of the investigation."

Does that mean they're cleared? Not exactly.

The U.S. Attorney's office would not comment when I asked them to confirm the statement. LoHud.com reported that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara "declined to comment on whether Forest City Ratner had broken the law by hiring Jereis or whether they were a target of the continuing investigation."

And, as I wrote, "not a target" could mean they're not a target now but could be in the future.

Following FCR's lead

Still, other than AYR and the local LoHud.com (home of the Journal-News), the press did not try to verify Forest City Ratner's claim. The New York Times dutifully printed FCR's statement, without adding, as the newspaper did in a 5/5/08 article on the investigation, that Forest City Ratner "partnered with The New York Times to build its new headquarters."

The Daily News and the Observer also quoted the FCR statement without question. (I couldn't find coverage in the Post.)

Cloud remains

But it's not like Forest City Ratner is left without a cloud over it. In the indictment, FCR is cited as agreeing to provide Zehy Jereis, the former head of the Yonkers Republican Party, a $60,000 consulting contract after he got Yonkers City Council Member Sandy Annabi once a fierce opponent of the Ridge Hill project, to change her vote.

A claim by the developer, unsupported by prosecutors, is not the last word.

2 comments:

  1. In fact, the NY Times article said that two of those indicted are accused of "bilking two developers of tens of thousands of dollars".

    I do not find the term "bilking" in the indictment.

    I do find that FCRC helped to draft the press release that Annabi had changed her mind and would vote in favor of Ridge Hill.

    So how then was FCRC "bilked"? Did FCRC really desire or need Jereis as a consultant? Or did FCRC simply pay for a result?

    It would be more accurate to say that the people of Yonkers, like the people of Brooklyn, were "bilked" by FCRC.

    ReplyDelete
  2. generally, as prosecutors use the term "target" it means that they have enough evidence to indict someone. If they are just beginning to look at you, you are a "person of interest".

    Sid

    ReplyDelete