Disgraced former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi was led out of court in handcuffs Friday after being sentenced from one to four years in prison on felony corruption charges.
"I will never forgive myself. I will live with this shame for the rest of my life," Hevesi said right before his sentence was handed down.
The former top state fiscal officer and mayoral candidate, who previously admitted to influence peddling at the state pension fund, will not appeal his sentence.
"Mr. Hevesi, I can tell you, accepts responsibility, he accepts the punishment and the sentence that was imposed today. He has enormous respect for [the judge]," said Bradley Simon, Hevesi's attorney. "He's doing well, he's stoic and understands that he did wrong and is prepared to accept his punishment."
Hevesi, 71, is in deteriorating health but remained stoic as Judge Michael Obus rendered the sentence. Hevesi's family sat behind him in the hushed courtroom.
He was taken into police custody at Ulster Correctional Facility in Napanoch, N.Y. and will serve his sentence in a yet-to-be-determined state prison.
The former politician was supposed to be in court the week before, but was hospitalized for a medical procedure. His attorneys asked for leniency, citing their client's poor health.
The sentencing marked another low in Hevesi's long fall. He was not only once the state's top fiscal officer, but he held the same position in New York City and was once a leading candidate for mayor.
A long-time State Assemblyman from Queens, Hevesi ran for city comptroller in 1993 and scored an upset victory in his first successful bid for citywide office. That race, and others in Hevesi's rise though the political ranks, was masterminded by Hank Morris – the same man who was there during Hevesi's downfall.
As state comptroller, Hevesi steered business in the state pension fund to Morris' clients, while Morris got kickbacks and Hevesi got campaign contributions and trips. Both wound up behind bars, prosecuted by then-attorney general Andrew Cuomo.
Eight other people, including Morris, were previously sentenced in connection to the pay-for-play scandal.
Hevesi's family paints him an unknowing accomplice under Morris' spell. But a judge decided otherwise.
"Even in times of great cynicism about politicians and about public officials, there is an expectation that individuals who have achieved such positions of public trust would be worthy of that promise," Obus said in sentencing Hevesi on Friday.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement, “Hevesi brazenly sold access to New York Pension Fund investments — a betrayal of the public trust that went to the heart of his duties as Comptroller. Today’s sentencing decision will help achieve my office’s principal objective of restoring New Yorkers' faith in their state government."
Statements On Hevesi's Sentencing
Governor Andrew Cuomo:
Public integrity was my top priority as New York Attorney General and it is as Governor. For government to work, it must have the trust of the people. Those who hold public office must safeguard that trust, and those who violate their oath must incur just punishment. It is a new day in Albany and the old way of doing business will not be tolerated.
My public integrity bureau spent four years investigating and prosecuting those who had corrupted the integrity of the New York State Comptroller's Office under Alan Hevesi. In the beginning, skeptics said it was business as usual, not a crime. It was assumed to be typical Albany corruption. At the end of the day, eight guilty pleas resulted, including those of Hevesi's Chief Investment Officer David Loglisci and chief political consultant Hank Morris, and ultimately by Hevesi himself, and we recovered $170 million for the people and the State pension fund.
Today, Hevesi was sentenced to a term of one to four years in prison. As we learn of the court's ruling, it is important to bear in mind the heavy toll of public integrity offenses. Just as you cannot put a price on public integrity, you cannot quantify the harm done to the bond between the government and the People when public integrity is compromised. Hevesi was a statewide elected official who admitted violating his oath for personal and political gain, and we must continue to root out corruption wherever it may be found.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli:
Today’s sentencing of Alan Hevesi is a welcome and just conclusion to a years-long saga. Mr. Hevesi betrayed the trust of all New Yorkers. His sentence is clear evidence that this type of criminal behavior will not be tolerated.
Since taking office, I have changed the way the pension fund does business so history cannot repeat itself. I have banned placement agents and pay-to-play practices, and I have increased transparency in pension fund transactions. But there is more that can be done.
The punishment for breaking the law while performing a public duty must include pension forfeiture and increased fines and sentencing. The pension forfeiture bill I proposed earlier this year would do just that. No public official who violates the public trust should be allowed to receive a taxpayer-funded pension. Passage of my bill would be a much-needed step in rebuilding the public’s confidence in its government.