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(Reuters) – The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office on Thursday charged a married couple with official misconduct after the wife allegedly used her former position with a New York appellate court to benefit her husband’s law firm.
According to the indictment, Melissa Ringel, a former director at the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department, advised a real estate attorney whose client had also retained her husband, Frank Esposito, on a multimillion-dollar transaction without authorization.
Ringel allegedly told the attorney that a multimillion-dollar Lenox Hill penthouse was no longer in escrow, even though advising on the matter was outside of the scope of her role at the appellate court, the indictment said. The property was sold and her husband’s law firm, Esposito Partners, received $50,000, prosecutors alleged.
“This conduct erodes the credibility of the profession and undermines principles of fairness and impartiality in our courts,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement.
Ringel was forced to resign in April 2018 following an internal watchdog investigation, prosecutors said. According to her LinkedIn profile, she has been employed at her husband’s law firm since then.
In a statement, the defendants’ attorneys – Brian Linder and Isabelle Kirshner of Clayman & Rosenberg for Esposito, and Daniel Horwitz of McLauglin & Stern and Michael Ross for Ringel – said they would fight the charges.
“We look forward to vigorously defending our clients and are confident that both Ms. Ringel and Mr. Esposito will be fully exonerated,” the statement said. “The decision by the DA to pursue criminal charges pertaining to a three-minute phone call, in which accurate information was relayed, no victim suffered harm, and which took place more than five years ago, is misguided and inappropriate.”
Both Ringel and Esposito are charged with official misconduct, a class A misdemeanor. They did not respond to requests for comment.