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Former City Councilman Sheldon Leffler is due back in a Manhattan courtroom Friday to be sentenced for his conviction last year on felony campaign finance fraud charges.
Leffler, who represented northeast Queens for 24 years, could be sentenced to up to four years in prison for trying to split a $10,000 donation into smaller donations to make the money eligible for the citys matching funds program.
Leffler was convicted Nov. 12 in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
Leffler and his attorney, Fred Hafetz, were planning to appeal the decision. Hafetz declined to comment on the sentencing hearing.
The jury convicted Leffler of attempting to defraud the city of $40,000 by splitting one donation into 38 smaller amounts to qualify illegally for the citys matching funds program during his bid for borough president in 2001.
The jury heard testimony over the four-week trial that Leffler convinced Hollis real estate mogul Rita Stark to split a $10,000 contribution into smaller $250 donations so the money would qualify for the citys campaign matching funds program. The matching funds program allows candidates to get $4 in public funds for every $1 they raise in eligible gifts under $250.
Leffler, 61, was also convicted of telling Stark to donate the funds under names of her employees, family, friends, tenants and contractors and having her forge their signatures on contribution cards.
Stark testified against Leffler and wore a wire to secretly record conversations with the lawmaker and his staff as part of a plea agreement with the Manhattan district attorney. She was not charged with anything.
In the Council, Leffler, who chaired the Public Security Committee, earned a reputation for honesty and integrity. Leffler worked in the Council to establish the citys recycling laws and was an advocate for other environmental issues.
Former Mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins and former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger testified on his behalf during the trial, which took place over a four-week period in the fall. Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), who took over Lefflers seat, called the verdict a miscarriage of justice and said he would have named Leffler the least likely politician to be indicted, he said after the verdict was announced.
Leffler could face up to four years in prison on the felony charges, and the sentence is in the hands of State Supreme Justice Lewis Bart Stone, who presided over the trial.
At this point its really up to the judge, said a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney.
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2004 Community Newspaper Group
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