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FALL FROM GRACE: McLaughlin faces sentence

The more than three−year−long saga that has obliterated the reputation of one of Queens’ most influential political and labor leaders may finally come to a close next week.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan said former Democratic Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin was scheduled to be sentenced in Manhattan federal court May 20 at 3 p.m. The sentencing would end a chapter in one of the largest federal corruption probes in Queens’ history.

In a pre−sentencing hearing Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, Judge Richard Sullivan indicated that he was considering a departure from federal sentencing guidelines in what appears to be a move toward a tougher punishment, citing McLaughlin’s “abuse of public trust” in bilking millions of dollars from labor groups, his own re−election committee and the Electchester Athletic Association, according to court papers.

Following the judge’s statement, McLaughlin’s attorneys requested Wednesday morning that sentencing be adjourned from this Thursday afternoon, as originally scheduled, to May 20. Sullivan granted the request.

Last week McLaughlin’s attorney submitted a 160−page memorandum containing nearly four dozen letters from friends, family members and community leaders pleading for leniency from Sullivan.

Just over a year after pleading guilty, the letters collectively paint former Flushing politician and labor chief Brian McLaughlin as an alcoholic and an adulterer who has rebuilt his life after thumbing his nose at the law.

“Mr. McLaughlin is at heart and core a good man who lost his way but has found it again,” his attorney, Michael Armstrong, wrote in a letter to Sullivan.

In 2006, Mclaughlin was arrested after federal authorities indicted him on 43 counts of racketeering, which included embezzlement, receiving bribes, fraud and money laundering. Last March days before jury selection was to begin in his trial, McLaughlin pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering and one count of making false statements.

In the 47 letters submitted to Sullivan, the former head of the Central Labor Council’s wife Eva, children, Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor and Queens community leaders called on Sullivan to issue probation in lieu of jail time.

“His fall from grace has been a heavy fall — two powerful and good paying jobs, influence and leadership in his union and community replaced by shame and guilt,” wrote his son, Brian McLaughlin. “Nonetheless, he has worked hard to improve his life and as a result has united our family.”

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) was the only elected official to submit a letter on McLaughlin’s behalf and wrote that despite his crimes, McLaughlin has always been a dedicated community servant.

“I worked with him for many years, we passed a lot of important legislation together,” Padavan said in a telephone interview. “I saw him as a staunch advocate for his community. I saw him as a dedicated member of his parish. I wrote about the work that he did because I think he’s a person that has done a lot of good for his community.”

According to the memorandum, filed May 5 in Manhattan federal court, McLaughlin joined Alcoholics Anonymous in 2005 to treat a longstanding alcohol dependency and has rebuilt relationships with his children after repeated infidelities led him to be estranged from his second wife, Eva.

“While we all regret the situation that my father has put himself and our family in, we also learned the power of forgiveness,” his daughter, Kelly, said. “I have watched my father transform these past few years.”

The court filing also includes a letter from Dennis Mannix, McLaughlin’s sponsor at Alcoholics Anonymous. Mannix, who met McLaughlin in 2005, was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in 1980, but sentenced to five years probation and alcohol counseling by Judge Peter McQuillan.

“He came to us in A.A. before he was arrested, he was on his way with God’s grace to sobriety. He has been a powerful example of God’s power to me and countless others,” Mannix wrote. “He will do no one any good in jail. I ask what was asked of [Judge] Peter McQuillan on my behalf to show Brian leniency with no jail time.”

McLaughlin’s sentencing has been delayed numerous times over the last year after sources told TimesLedger Newspapers he began cooperating with federal authorities on investigations that led to the indictments of state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio (D−Richmond Hill) and Santo Petrocelli, the head of Long Island City−based Petrocelli Electric Company.

Under federal guidelines McLaughlin was expected to be sentenced to between eight to 10 years in prison, but his cooperation could potentially limit or even eliminate the jail time he serves.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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