The Queens Republican operative convicted of stealing more than a million dollars from the mayor was led off to prison Monday to begin serving a sentence of at least a year.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ronald Zweibel denied the request made by John Haggerty’s attorneys to give the Forest Hills resident probation for his October conviction on grand larceny and money laundering charges and ordered that he be held in prison for 1 1/3 to four years.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who testified against Haggerty during the trial, gave the state Independence Party $1.1 million, which was meant to pay Haggerty for hiring poll watchers on Election Day. The 41-year-old, however, used almost all of that money to buy out his brother’s share of their late father’s Forest Hills Gardens home.
During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Eric Seidel said Haggerty was motivated to commit the theft because he wanted the Forest Hills Gardens home.
At the sentencing, Haggerty attorney Dennis Vacco said Seidel was correct but that Haggerty was not driven by greed to steal Bloomberg’s money, explaining that Haggerty was 15 years old when his mother died and his father was rarely home.
“The house clouded his vision. The house clouded his judgment,” Vacco said. “This was a desperate attempt to hang on to a family life that passed him by and [he] never had since the death of his mother.”
Prosecutors wanted Haggerty to be sentenced to four to 12 years. Zweibel said his sentence was needed “to restore the public’s confidence in the electoral process.”
In addition to the prison time, Haggerty was ordered to pay $750,000 in restitution and will have a three-year conditional discharge following his stay in prison.
He was apologetic in court during the proceeding.
“If I could do it all over again, I’d do it much differently,” he said before being handcuffed and escorted by court officers for processing.
In arguing for probation, Vacco said the blow to Haggerty’s reputation and the loss of his home were punishment enough. He pointed out that Haggerty had no living parents, lived alone, had no children and was divorced.
“What a terrible sentence that is,” Vacco said.
Seidel asked Zweibel to sentence Haggerty to four to 12 years in prison.
“This defendant just flat out lied, misrepresented, covered up,” Seidel said. “It’s a significant amount of money and it wasn’t just stolen, it was laundered.”
Jurors found Haggerty stole the money and laundered it through a company he created called Special Election Operations.
Raymond Castello, another attorney for Haggerty, said 48 people wrote letters to Zweibel seeking leniency for his client, whom he called “a man of integrity.
Castello disputed prosecutors’ claims that Haggerty showed no remorse for his crimes.
“Certainly he has expressed that he is very sorry for what has happened here,” he said, noting that Haggerty plans to make full restitution of $750,000 by selling the Forest Hills Gardens home he bought with the stolen funds.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2011 Community News Group
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