The boom was lowered in federal court on May 3, where the one-time most powerful politician in the state legislature received two lengthy sentences from a federal judge. The convicted defendant received 12 years for extortion, wire fraud, and other counts related to corruption while in office, and another ten years for money-laundering. The sentences will run concurrently, meaning that the disgraced defendant is looking at spending 12 years behind bars.
Public Office, Personal Gain
At the time of his arrest last year, the now-former politician was charged with business schemes that resulted in millions of dollars received in kickbacks from law firms, for referrals of clients to a law firm by a doctor whose medical research was being financed with taxpayer funds. He also received kickbacks from another law firm, based on their work for real-estate developers who had benefitted from legislative actions.
Following a five-week trial, a jury deliberated for three days before returning a guilty verdict. In addition to the lengthy prison sentences, the judge also ordered asset forfeiture of more than $5 million, along with nearly $2 million in fines.
Issues for Appeal
An appeal to these convictions will be forthcoming, and a motion for a new trial was denied by the judge prior to his sentencing. Among the issues to be raised at the appellate level will almost certainly be the trial court’s refusal to excuse two jurors after the conclusion of the trial. The lone holdout juror made claims of being bullied by the remaining jurors, who must reach a unanimous verdict in order to convict a defendant. After five weeks of testimony, it is very likely that jurors did not want their time investment in the case to be undone by a holdout juror.
Other jurors have denied that any bullying took place, but the claim has been made and the attorneys for the former speaker could very well assert that on appeal. Another juror learned of an indirect financial relationship with the defendant and asked to be excused from the jury, which the trial judge declined to do.
The trial court has discretion to allow for jurors to be excused, and it is very unlikely for a trial judge would second-guess her own decisions before imposing a sentence on the defendant. The appellate court will be asked to consider the trial court’s conduct, and jurists who did not preside over a lengthy trial may see these decisions in a different light than the trial judge did.
Too Long Behind Bars
The defendant’s attorneys presented dozens of letters to the trial judge calling for leniency, based on age and a recent cancer diagnosis. These letters were at least partially effective, since the judge refused to impose a sentence as lengthy as the prosecution had requested.
The defendant has been diagnosed with the same type of cancer that already killed both his brother and his father. The trial judge stated an intention of not being “draconian” in sentencing, but the defendant’s family medical history suggests 12 years of incarceration will likely be a death sentence.
The Next Step
The district attorney has already announced the end of the defendant’s legislative career, but the judicial process is not over yet. Expect defense attorneys to vigorously attack the trial verdict, and seek to overturn their client’s conviction.
The case is a timely and important reminder that the right to a fair trial, including appeals, belongs to every American citizen. Have a criminal charge in New York? Let the AX criminal team offer you a free case consultation anytime; (518) 675-3094
DISCLAIMER: The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave + Associates (formerly Anelli Nave) are located at 432 N. Franklin Street, Suite 80, Syracuse, NY 13204; Telephone No.: 1-866-792-7800. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.