Former New York state Senator Shirley Huntley, who pleaded guilty to mail fraud conspiracy and tried to help the government in a corruption probe, was sentenced to one year in prison.
Huntley, 74, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein in Brooklyn, New York, for stealing $87,700 from her charity, the Parents Information Network. Weinstein said he gave credit for her cooperating with the government by secretly recording state lawmakers and other people. Huntley faced an advisory range of as long as two years in prison.
“Huntley’s cooperation with the government evidences an acknowledgment of a need for self-orientation toward law-abiding conduct,” Weinstein said in a written order released after the hearing. “Huntley’s effort to assist the government is offset by the fact that she lied to the government, which refused to submit a letter on her behalf at sentencing.”
As part of her cooperation effort, Huntley, of Queens, recorded six state senators, New York City Councilman Ruben Willis, and two former staff members, according to a letter filed by her lawyer, Sally Butler, in a request for leniency.
The state senators included Bronx and Westchester County state Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Queens state senators Jose Peralta and Malcolm Smith, and Brooklyn state senators Velmanette Montgomery, Eric Adams, and John Sampson.
Smith was charged last month in a bribery case in Manhattan. Sampson pleaded not guilty this week to embezzlement and other charges.
Adams, who is running for Brooklyn Borough President, said he hasn’t been contacted about an investigation. Hassell-Thompson, Peralta and Willis also said they didn’t believe they were targets of ongoing probes.
In court today, Butler said Huntley put herself at risk by having “clandestine” meetings with the government, sneaking investigators into her house and recording sometimes “dangerous people.”
After the details of Huntley’s cooperation were revealed when the letter was made public yesterday under an order from Weinstein, the former lawmaker and her family have received threats from people in their community, Butler said.
“I’m really concerned about her safety,” Butler said. “I can’t say that enough.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul A. Tuchmann told the judge that some of Huntley’s information was credible and some wasn’t.
“She lied about certain topics, various topics, during her meetings with the government,” he said.
Huntley, who served in the state Senate from 2007 to December 2012, is accused of using some of her charity’s money, much of which came from public grants, for personal purchases and other unapproved spending. The charity was purportedly intended to help educate parents about the New York City public school system.
As a condition of a plea deal, Huntley agreed to pay $87,700 to the state and $1,000 to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for a separate bribery scheme involving a cargo-handling business that sought space at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Separately, Huntley also faced charges in New York state court in suburban Nassau County over her alleged used of another nonprofit, Parent Workshop Inc., to divert about $30,000 in public money to an aide and her niece. She was sentenced to probation in that case.
Dozens of letters were submitted to Weinstein on her behalf by friends, family members and members of the community, praising her dedication as a public servant.
“It hurts me deeply to know that my mistakes have tarnished the good things I have done over the years,” Huntley said in court, while sitting at a table next to Butler and her husband.
In a statement, Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said Huntley violated the public trust and betrayed her constituents.
“The crux of this case has always been defendant Shirley Huntley’s greed and self-interest,” Lynch said.
The case is U.S. v. Huntley, 1:13-cr-00054, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).
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