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Padavan chips in $5K to help ex-senator

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Guy Velella, a 59-year-old Bronx Republican state senator who spent almost 30 years in the state Legislature, was sentenced to a year in jail after he pleaded to a fourth-degree felony charge of conspiracy.

In exchange for his plea, the charges filed against Velella's elderly father have been dropped. Velella's 90-year-old father, Vincent, was a member of the New York City Board of Elections.

Guy Velella, who was the Bronx County GOP chairman, and his father were law partners when the Manhattan district attorney's office charged the pair with having bribed contractors into hiring the father's other private law firm in order to secure jobs in the Bronx and Westchester County.

Padavan, one of two Republican state senators from Queens, kicked in $5,000 to the Velella Defense Fund. The money, Padavan said, came from his own campaign contributions.

The Associated Press reported last month that the Velella Defense Fund held a reception at a tavern in the Bronx with donations of up to $10,000 accepted at the door.

By pleading guilty, Guy Velella avoided standing trial. But Padavan said Velella racked up nearly $900,000 in legal fees in the lengthy court battle.

"Even though he didn't go to a trial, there were huge legal expenses he still hasn't been able to fully cover," Padavan said. "This has been going on for years."

The Queens Republican said he believed Velella was the target of what was "arguably a politically motivated charge...which is why many of us gave him a contribution to his defense fund."

Several other legislators contributed to Velella's defense fund, including state Sen. Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer).

Velella has resigned from the Senate, but will still receive his $80,000-a-year pension.

He was charged with accepting nearly $137,000 in bribes in exchange for the awarding of state contracts.

In a statement to State Supreme Court Justice Joan Sudolnikat his sentencing Monday, Velella said, "I have begun repayment of that debt by resigning from the Senate and losing my right to practice law. Today I begin writing the final chapter of that debt, and I am prepared to accept your sentence, serve it and begin my new life as a private citizen."

Padavan said he could not personally comment on Velella's decision to plead guilty.

"I think the whole matter is quite sad," Padavan said. "I'm not in a position to second-guess his legal counsel and the entire issue as it related to his father."

Five men, including Velella and his father, were indicted two years ago in connection with the charges.

Padavan said he has not been in contact with Velella since the plea deal was struck.

"I may at some point in time given him a call, but I have not," he said.

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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