GOP fund-raiser convicted of obstruction in pay-for-parole case

NEW YORK - A wealthy Korean-American businessman was convicted Friday of one of six charges he faced in an alleged scheme to secure parole for violent convicts in exchange for campaign contributions to New York Gov. George Pataki.

A federal jury found Yung Soo Yoo guilty of obstruction of justice, but jurors told U.S. District Judge Frederic Block they were deadlocked on two conspiracy and three corruption charges.

Block declared a mistrial on those counts and scheduled a retrial for September at prosecutors' request.

''I still think they have the wrong guy,'' said Yoo, 63, as he left court.

Although the obstruction of justice charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, prosecutors said Yoo probably would get far less time under federal sentencing guidelines.

The verdict followed two weeks of testimony during which Yoo and a top Pataki campaign aide, Patrick Donohue, were accused of promising three families they could buy ''samyun'' - Korean for ''clemency'' - for inmates by contributing a total of $40,000 to Pataki's 1994 campaign.

At the time, Yoo was embraced by the Republican Party as someone who could deliver money and votes from Korean-American communities.

Yoo ''decided to put up for sale your state criminal justice system,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Giordano told the jury.

Defense attorney Nicholas DeFeis countered that Yoo had ''no motive or incentive to do this. ... He's just not that stupid.''

Donohue, the finance director for ''Friends of Pataki,'' testified that he never conspired with Yoo to make deals with contributors. On cross-examination, prosecutors labeled Donohue a target of an ongoing investigation of alleged influence peddling by Pataki aides.

No one close to Pataki, including Donohue, has been charged, and the administration has denied any wrongdoing. Three former parole officials have been indicted or convicted.

At trial, one former parole official testified that the Division of Parole chairman, under pressure from the governor's office, had ordered him to fix the case of an Asian gang member.

The inmate was paroled in 1996 after serving his minimum sentence and after his parents arranged about $9,000 in contributions to the Pataki campaign.


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