By Mike Hudson;
A rat in the woodpile, former county Republican Party chairman Henry Wojtaszek, who switched sides and decided to help former Democratic state senator and current state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in order to save his own skin, is primarily responsible for the current five count felony indictment against long time former state senator George Maziarz, the Niagara Falls Reporter has learned.
“He’s been cooperating with the government authorities all along,” Wojtaszek’s defense attorney, Patrick Brown told reporters. “We expect that to continue.”
In March, Wojtaszek pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of state election law violation. The deal he worked out led him to throw his longtime mentor, Maziarz, under the bus and implicate war hero and current state Sen. Rob Ortt as well.
Schneiderman says Maziarz funneled “secret” campaign payments to a former senate staffer. Court filings say money from The Committee to Elect Maziarz State Senate and the Niagara County Republican Committee that was paid to staffer Glenn Aronow totaled $49,000 in 2012 and $46,000 from 2013 to 2014.
Aronow, a former county legislator who worked as Maziarz’s spokesman left government service amid sexual harassment charges and later founded his own public relations firm, which Maziarz then retained.
The sexual harassment case was settled for a reported $90,000.
Now, according to Scheiderman, the fact that Maziarz hired Aranow’s public relations firm constitutes a five count felony.
Both Maziarz and Ortt (see related story) were indicted on the same day Wojtaszek took his slap on the wrist plea bargain.
Maziarz left court with noted Niagara Falls attorney Joseph M. LaTona of Buffalo and E. Stewart Jones of Troy, considered one of the Capital District’s top defense lawyers. He offered no comment to reporters.
“All I have to say here is Maziarz is not guilty, he pleads not guilty, and he looks forward to being vindicated in the courts,” LaTona told waiting reporters.
Maziarz left office at the end of 2014. He was first elected in 1995. The senate district runs from the Niagara Falls area east toward Brockport.
“I will be completely exonerated because I have done absolutely nothing wrong,” Maziarz said at the time adding that, “when people find out what’s really going on here, they’re going to be shocked.”
Wojtaszek’s attorney, Patrick Brown, has been a strong supporter of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, a longtime Maziarz foe. And between 1998 and 2009, when he was a state senator, Schneirderman and Maziarz were often locked in partisan political battles.
Is it simply a coincidence that Brown and Schneiderman are now going after the former senator, when the history of their animosity is so well documented.
It would be foolish to think so.
In the political media business there is a practice known as “opposition research.” Instead of going where the facts take you, which is what you’re supposed to do, you make up your mind before going in a pick up only the facts that suit your own particular theory or point of view.
In the Maziarz case, this is clearly what Schneiderman has done.
And to call it criminal would be a gentle way of putting it.