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Harding Avoids Jail Time In State Pension Scandal

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Despite his role in former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi's pay-to-play scandal, former New York State Liberal Party boss Ray Harding will not face time behind bars.

The political power broker had faced up to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty for doing favors for Hevesi in exchange for a lucrative role as a pension placement agent.

Altogether, he pocketed $800,000 in fees.

Under the conditions of his release, Harding will avoid jail time if he stays out of trouble for a year. He is also not allowed to do business with the state, or reapply to the bar association.

Harding also does not have to pay back the money that he got through the scheme. The attorney's general did not give an explanation for that to NY1 on Wednesday, but Harding did cooperate with the government with the investigation.

In handing down the sentence Wednesday, the judge went with the recommendation of the state's attorney's office, which cited Harding's cooperation among other things.

"I'm profoundly sorry for what I have done," Harding told the judge.

"Is that it?" the judge asked.

"That's it," replied Harding. He declined comment to NY1.

In the courtroom, Harding's lawyer said his client needed the money to help aid his son Russell, a former city housing official during Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's term.

Russell Harding ended up serving prison time for embezzling city funds and admitted to possessing child pornography.

"I think for the moment he's just going to breathe a sigh of relief and appreciate it and then he's going to figure out what he's doing next And the one thing he said in court is that he's very sorry. And he is indeed, as he said," said attorney David Frankel.

Hevesi was sentenced to one to four years in prison for his role in the pension fund scandal. His political advisor Hank Morris faces four years too.

The pay to play pension scandal still is not over, as officials say there are cases that have yet to be resolved in court.

Five more players are set to be sentenced next month and July.

As for the Liberal Party, it is now a party in name only, after it was one of the strongest third-parties in city history. Mayor John Lindsay won re-election in 1969 on its line and Giuliani needed it for victory in 1993. Other boldface politicians have won on its line over the years.

Henry Stern, a former city parks commissioner, said it is looking again.

"The Liberal Party is looking for an opportunity to support a candidate who is liberal with sanity, because I think that's the opening that exists now," said Stern.

The Liberal Party lost its ballot spot in 2002, when its candidate for governor failed to meet the vote threshold. That person was Andrew Cuomo, who as state attorney general brought the charges against his former political patron.

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