|Former Alan Hevesi aide Hank Morris appears in court Thursday. Hermann for News|
A state judge on Thursday said the bulk of a pay-to-play case against the top political aide to disgraced former Controller Alan Hevesi can move to trial.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lewis Bart Stone dismissed 13 counts of the indictment against Hank Morris, but left in place 77 counts - including a criminal enterprise charge that carries a 25-year prison term.
The toughly worded 85-page decision seemed to support many of the arguments brought by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
Stone called Morris a "central figure of the criminal enterprise" who received $19 million in fees from companies that won pension fund business.
He said the evidence presented to the grand jury was "sufficient to sustain a finding that Morris conducted the criminal activities alleged in the indictment."
"Morris' scheme was to create a 'toll gate' for entry into the [pension fund] where only those who paid Morris' toll could enter," Stone wrote.
Morris was indicted last year on charges he spearheaded a scheme requiring kickbacks to himself or associates - or campaign donations to Hevesi - from firms looking for pension fund business.
Morris' lawyer William Schwartz gave a terse "no comment" as he left court yesterday. Morris' wife cried during the hearing. The case against Morris will resume Thursday.