In 2020, Joseph P. Brady, the legislative director for then Brooklyn Assemblyman Peter Abbate Jr., was arrested for felony sex abuse after an 18-year-old woman accused him of drugging and raping her at his home in Watervliet, N.Y., a small town near Albany.
Brady’s arrest sparked widespread media attention because of a subsequent investigation by the Albany-based Times Union exposing the top aide to a powerful elected official’s double life as a leader of a violent motorcycle gang.
But last December, more than two years later, Brady’s felony charge was dismissed, and authorities have been silent about why.
According to court records, as a result of a grand jury decision on Dec. 13, Brady is now facing only misdemeanor charges, including sex abuse in the second degree and “unlawful imprisonment” for allegedly displaying a gun when the teenage victim and her boyfriend attempted to flee his home.
He faces a maximum of one year behind bars. A conviction for the previous charges could have resulted in up to seven.
Brady’s attorney and the office of Albany District Attorney David Soares did not respond to repeated requests for comment, leaving unanswered questions about what had happened to the case.
Likewise, the Watervliet Police Department declined to provide information about the case, referring questions to Soares’ office.
“This matter is still pending in the courts,” said Watervliet Police Chief Joseph Centanni. “As such, the police department will not be providing a comment at this time.”
At the time of his arrest, state and local police were monitoring Brady’s motorcycle gang, a chapter of an outfit called the “East Coast Syndicate,” for alleged drug use and violent encounters. In 2019, as the Times Union reported, Brady was questioned as part of an investigation into the murder of Michael P. Ahern, a biker from Saratoga County, who was in another motorcycle club. In 2021, the Saratoga County sheriff announced that a member of the New York National Guard had pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge following Ahern’s death, but noted that he may not have acted alone.
‘Did He Flip?’
In a phone call, Abbate, an influential former Democratic lawmaker who lost his Assembly seat last year after more than three decades of service, said that he had not heard from Brady since his arrest, but added that the charge reduction raised questions about whether his former aide was cooperating with authorities in a larger investigation related to biker violence.
“Did he flip?,” asked Abbate, a lifelong resident of Bensonhurst and the longtime head of the Assembly’s Committee on Government Employees.
“My thought was, since he never called me or anything, that they threw the book at him, just so he would talk,” he continued.
The Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to requests for comment about whether Brady was cooperating with law enforcement. In an email, Stephanie O’Neil, a spokesperson for the New York State Police, said it could not comment on questions about the charge modification.
Former prosecutors interviewed by THE CITY suggested that the case against Brady may have also suffered from problems common to sex crimes investigations.
According to police records, the victim claimed that she went to Brady’s house to visit her boyfriend, a 16-year-old who was staying there at the time. There Brady allegedly told her she had to take cocaine, and later laughed that he had actually given her and her boyfriend methamphetamines.
Afterwards, the victim, whose name is redacted in police reports, claimed that Brady sent her boyfriend out of the house to pick something up from a hotel. While he was gone, she said she passed out in a bedroom. When she woke up, the teenager told police she found herself on a coach and felt pain in her vaginal area. Her boyfriend told police that when he got back, he saw Brady in his underwear and that she looked like “she was messed up on something.”
Sarena Townsend, a former sex crimes prosecutor who left the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office in 2016, speculated that prosecutors may have faced difficulties with their grand jury presentation because neither the victim nor her boyfriend could have witnessed any alleged sexual contact.
“Victims who black out face hurdles in a prosecution like this because their incapacitation clouds their mind of the event and prevents them from giving the level of evidence necessary to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Townsend. “That result is a tragic one, particularly when it’s the alleged perpetrator himself that placed the victim in an incapacitated state.”
Townsend, now a defense attorney with Townsend, Mottola & Uris Law, noted that the grand jury’s dismissal of the top charge could have occurred because the District Attorney decided not to present them with the felony charge, or because the grand jury itself decided to reject it while keeping the misdemeanor count, which can be prosecuted even in cases where a victim, who is not “physically helpless,” claims they were incapable of consent.
But that kind of legal parsing from a grand jury, Townsend continued, would seem odd “because in this particular case, the felony and the misdemeanor counts were so similar.”
‘East Coast Syndicate, Inc.’
Before Brady’s arrest the New York State Comptroller’s Office was also investigating his business dealings with the state government. In response to an inquiry from THE CITY, the comptroller’s office declined to comment on the nature of those dealings.
Brady’s last state financial disclosure form from 2019 lists a company that did “roll off dumpster” work in the construction industry.
The comptroller’s office also rejected a Freedom of Information Law request seeking documents stemming from the probe into Brady.
“The records you seek relate to ongoing investigations,” wrote Jane Hall, a records access officer with the comptroller’s office in a letter last month. “Therefore, at this point, it is our determination that the disclosure of such documents could interfere with a law enforcement investigation, and your request for those documents is denied.”
In 2016, Department of State records show, Brady also filed an application to incorporate “East Coast Syndicate, Inc.” as a not-for-profit charitable corporation.