In March 2005, Anthony Serra, formerly the second-in-command of the New York City corrections department and top official at Rikers Island Jail, pleaded guilty to state and federal charges. He was subsequently sentenced to a year in prison. As previously reported in the August 2003 and January 2005 PLNs, Serra had been facing prosecution on a 144-count state indictment for charges stemming from his use of jail workers to renovate his kitchen and bathroom, plant trees and shrubs, mow the law, repair the driveway and other tasks at his house in Mahopac. The indictment also charged that Serra systematically stole city property and falsified state records to give the employees who worked on his home undeserved overtime.
The federal charges came from Serra's failure to report on his income tax form $200,000 he made as a political consultant. The money was paid to Serra after he forced jail employees to work for free on Republican political campaigns. Serra's political employees included the New York Republican State Committee and the Friends of Pataki. The offenses occurred in 1998, 2001 and 2002.
Serra faced up to five years in federal prison. On August 1, 2005, he pleaded guilty to income tax evasion charges and received a sentence of eight months in federal prison and a $80,000 fine. Additionally, Serra must serve two months of house arrest and two years of post-release supervision.
In March 2005, the day after he pleaded guilty to the federal charges, Serra pleaded guilty to two of the 114 charges in the state indictment. On October 6, 2005, he was sentenced for the felony charge of grand larceny and misdemeanor conflict of interest, receiving a one year sentence for each crime and an order to pay an additional $50,000 in restitution. Serra had already paid the city $25,000 in restitution. The state and federal sentences are to run concurrent.
In sentencing him to less than the one-year plea-bargained sentence, Manhattan federal judge Barbara Jones told Serra that he had made a foolish and tragic mistake," but she wasn't going to sentence him to term so lengthy that it will have any permanent effect on your ability to get back to your family." The light sentence and sympathetic attitude has spawned criticism of preferential treatment.
Assistant New York City District Attorney Donald Levin disagrees.
This is a guy who was way up there, who could have been the next commissioner, who fell from grace," Levin said. And a felony conviction is a long way to fall.
Be that as it may, one year in prison is still a light sentence for years of conducting a continuing criminal enterprise and committing hundreds of felonies. Wealthy or politically-connected criminals get preferential treatment in the criminal justice system. It's the American way.
Sources: The Empire Journal, New York Post, www.thejournalnews.com.
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