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March 27, 2019  

Cohoes Mayor’s Epic Secret Rap Sheet

March 27, 2019

Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse is in a heap of trouble these days, what with the federal corruption charges and his alleged accomplice now cooperating with prosecutors.

We covered that bust, the alleged underlying schemes, and a bit of Morse's sensationally checkered history in our recent special episode Spindle City Takedown.

But this ordinarily career-ending development, even amidst calls for his resignation from the city council on up to the governor, has not yet dislodged from office the alleged swindler, legislation-monger, and wife/daughter/girlfriend abuser.

Maybe that's because Morse is simply so accustomed to being charged with criminal wrongdoing over the years that it scarcely seems like a valid reason to forego his position of public trust and readily abusable power.

There's been a steady stream of media coverage of Morse's misdeeds (both the undisputed and the merely alleged), but to date, the formal rap sheet we were aware of consisted of 1) the recent arrest on federal corruption charges and 2) a 1989 incident in which the then-22-year-old broke a guy's nose in a bar.

(The multiple allegations of domestic abuse, after all, have not resulted in any charges, presumably due in part to Morse's wife Brenda retracting - in an email to Morse's defense attorney Joseph Ahearn some 14 months after the fact - the tearful and terrified account she gave 911 dispatchers in 2017 as the event was unfolding.)

But a review of documents recently obtained by Graft (which include court documents, other public records, correspondence with public agencies, and independently prepared summaries, not all of which can we independently verify and no representation as to the accuracy of which do we therefore make) suggests a far more robust history of criminality, including multiple additional charges of violent crimes, including at least two violent felony charges.

In total, we count up to seven arrests, involving some 20 charges (infractions, misdemeanors, and nine felonies, including the already known federal corruption charges, resulting in three convictions).

A quick rundown of the arrests, charges and convictions indicated by the court documents and summary reports follows, with links to the court dispositions where available:

  1. Oct. 30, 1983 (Cohoes)
    Arrested: Disorderly conduct
    No disposition

  2. Mar. 23, 1985 (Cohoes)
    Arrested: Disorderly conduct, resisting arrest
    No disposition

  3. Jul. 25, 1986 (Cohoes)
    Arrested: Speeding, failing to comply, DWI
    No disposition

  4. August 28, 1988 (Cohoes)
    Arrested: Assault 2nd degree (felony), assault 3rd degree, attempted assault 2nd degree, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct.
    Convicted of disorderly conduct on Jan. 20, 1989. Sentenced to counseling.

  5. Jul. 29, 1989 (Watervliet)
    Arrested: Assault 3rd degree (upgraded to 2nd degree felony)
    Convicted of 3rd degree assault on Oct. 31, 1989. Sentenced to 3 years probation, community service, and restitution.

  6. Jun. 29, 1995 (Cohoes)
    Arrested: DWI
    Convicted of DWAI on Jul. 11, 1995. Sentenced to fine, counseling.

  7. Feb. 28, 2019 (Albany)
    Indicted: one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and one count of making a false statement to the FBI.

Some important caveats:

First, it goes without saying that Morse was not found guilty of the above charges (except where noted).

Second, it's worth noting that for the first three offenses listed (two of which occurred before Morse's 18th birthday in April 1985), we do not have primary or official documentation of the proceedings. If the summary information provided to Graft is accurate, these appear to have resulted in favorable terminations, youthful offender adjudications, and possibly record sealings.

Because it's important to us to get this information right, we of course reached out to Mayor Morse to give him an opportunity to confirm or dispute its accuracy. Over the last two days, through multiple email exchanges with Morse and his criminal defense attorney, the aforementioned Mr. Ahearn, we have been unable to elicit either a concrete confirmation or a denial.

Ahearn did however describe the early arrests as being "sealed, confidential" ... "arrests that occurred when Shawn was a mandatory youthful offender."

Because Ahearn also spoke ominously of what might happen were we to discuss this information, we have chosen to reproduce our correspondence in full below, lest we be accused of misrepresenting his characterizations of the arrests.

Notwithstanding Mr. Ahearn's warnings, we are confident in this exercise of our 1st Amendment rights (as affirmed in Bartnicki v. Vopper), particularly as we did nothing unlawful to acquire this information.

While the potential sealing of the earliest of Mr. Morse's transgressions would for the most part inoculate him from the use of such history against him in subsequent criminal and employment considerations, that does not extend to a political or electoral get-out-of-jail-free card, so to speak

The public concern associated with a possible lifelong pattern of abuse by a powerful elected official who refuses even now to relinquish such power (and incredibly continues to campaign for re-election) cannot be overstated. And our standing to report such information - in good faith, characterized and caveated as accurately and thoroughly as possible, and only after giving ample opportunity for the subject and his representatives to correct any factual inaccuracies - isn't easily rattled.

We will of course promptly update with any additional relevant information obtained from Mr. Morse's defense team. Should they or anyone have knowledge that any of the factual information in this post is inaccurate, please let us know at [email protected] so that we may continue to bring the fullest, truest possible picture to the voters of Cohoes and the citizens of New York.

In the mean time, you can subscribe to the podcast via the links in the sidebar, or access the episode catalog on this site.


On Mon, Mar 25, 2019 at 7:55 PM Graft Podcast <[email protected]> wrote:

Dear Mayor Morse,

The Graft podcast ( is about to run a story that includes a recap of prior arrests. Could you please let us know ASAP if any of the following are inaccurate and/or if the list is incomplete?

Oct. 30, 1983 (Cohoes)
Arrested: disorderly conduct
No disposition

Mar. 23, 1985 (Cohoes)
Arrested: disorderly conduct, resisting arrest
No disposition

Jul. 25, 1986 (Cohoes)
Arrested: Speeding, failing to comply, DWI
No disposition

August 28, 1988 (Cohoes)
Arrested: Assault 2nd degree (felony), Assault 3rd degree, Attempted assault 2nd degree, Resisting arrest, Disorderly conduct
(Convicted of disorderly conduct on Jan. 20, 1989. Sentenced to counseling.)

Jul. 29, 1989 (Watervliet)
Arrested: assault in the 3rd degree, upgraded to 2nd degree.
(Convicted of 3rd degree assault on Oct. 31, 1989. Sentenced to 3 years probation, community service, and restitution.)

Jun. 29, 1995 (Cohoes)
Arrested: DWI
(Convicted of DWAI on Jul. 11, 1995. Sentenced to fine, counseling.)

Feb. 28, 2019 (Albany)
Indicted: one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and one count of making a false statement to the FBI.


On Mon, Mar 25, 2019 at 8:50 PM Morse, Shawn wrote:

You will receive an answer by tomorrow afternoon after this email can be reviewed.

Thank you .


On Tue, Mar 26, 2019, 7:05 PM Joe Ahearn wrote:

To whom it may concern: I am shawns attorney and i write to caution you from publicly disclosing and/discussing cases that have resulted in a favorable termination and/or youthful offender adjudication. I dont know where you obtained details about arrests that occurred when Shawn was a mandatory youthful offender but you will be treading on dangerous ground if they are discussed on your podcast. You are cautioned to consult your own attorney before proceeding. Thank you, Joseph M Ahearn

Sent from my iPhone


On Mar 26, 2019, at 7:12 PM, Graft Podcast <[email protected]> wrote:

Mr. Ahearn,

Thank you for your response and for the guidance. We will proceed pursuant to counsel's guidance.

To clarify though, do you dispute the factual accuracy of any of the dates and details presented (5 of the 7 of which are dated after Mr. Morse's 18th birthday)?

Thanks again.


On Tue, Mar 26, 2019, 8:10 PM Joe Ahearn wrote:

Ask your source who provides you with sealed, confidential information... whoever provided you with that information has likely committed a crime

Sent from my iPhone


On Mar 26, 2019, at 9:17 PM, Graft Podcast <[email protected]> wrote:

I'll interpret your responses to date as not refuting the accuracy of the information. If I'm incorrect in that intepretation, please advise.


On Tue, Mar 26, 2019, 10:15 PM Joe Ahearn wrote:

Please provide your name and position with this podcast. I would like to know who I’m speaking with if you insist on putting words in my mouth. I don’t have any comment regarding the accuracy of your information, I have not spoken to the mayor in detail regarding this issue. If you think my failure to refute the accuracy of a text message should be interpreted as confirmation of the accuracy of the text message then I have no interest in commenting any further. If you wish to provide a copy of the actual record (as opposed to the typed list you sent via text to the mayor) I will discuss it with the mayor and comment regarding the accuracy. Joe Ahearn

Sent from my iPad


On Mar 27, 2019, at 8:29 AM, Graft Podcast <[email protected]> wrote:

This is Flip Pidot, co-host of the podcast. These are emails, not text messages. The question is simple - whether the list of 7 arrests and the associated charges and dispositions we emailed to the mayor's official email address two days ago is accurate and comprehensive, and if not, how. If neither the mayor nor his representatives can/will confirm or deny, then I thank you for your time.


On Wed, Mar 27, 2019, 9:33 AM Joe Ahearn wrote:

And my request was also simple... forward a copy of the actual ejustice printout, i will confirm if the dates are accurate and respond accordingly…

Sent from my iPhone


On Wednesday, March 27, 2019, 10:10:20 AM EDT, Graft Podcast <[email protected]> wrote:

Such documentation is plainly not required for us to ask with more than adequate specificity - nor for the mayor to answer - this factual question. If the mayor's policy is to neither confirm nor deny without being furnished with such official documentation, then we may end our correspondence.

Thank you again.


On Wed, Mar 27, 2019 at 2:29 PM Joe Ahearn wrote:

The mayor has spoken publicly about his prior arrests during his first campaign. No further comment…