L. Dennis Kozlowski, the former Tyco International Ltd. chief executive officer convicted in 2005 of looting the company, sued New York’s parole board for refusing to release him.
The board denied the 65-year-old Kozlowski’s request for parole in April “due to concern for the public safety and welfare.” Kozlowski was sentenced to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison in 2005 after a Manhattan jury found him guilty. He began serving his sentence in September of that year and will be eligible for parole again in January 2014.
In a petition filed yesterday in New York State Supreme Court, Kozlowski asked a judge to annul the decision and grant his application for parole or give him a new hearing, saying that the board relied on erroneous information in making its ruling.
“The parole board’s public safety and welfare rationale was patently irrational and unsupported by any evidence,” Kozlowski said in the petition. “The notion that Mr. Kozlowski’s release would jeopardize public safety is utterly irrational in light of the voluminous, unchallenged evidence supporting the contrary conclusion.”
The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, which operates the parole board, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Kozlowski was transferred in January to the Lincoln Correctional Facility, a minimum-security facility on 110th Street near Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, from the medium-security Mid-State Correctional Facility in Marcy, according to the department.
Kozlowski leaves every weekday morning as part of a release program where he works at a software company and must return every night to the prison, although he is permitted to spend Saturday nights outside the facility, according to the department.
Kozlowski has “conducted himself as a model” inmate since his incarceration, has never committed a disciplinary infraction and has completed every program offered to him, including an alcohol and substance abuse treatment program, according to the petition.
He served as a teacher’s aide for inmates pursuing high-school equivalency diplomas and was awarded “merit time” that reduced his minimum term, making him eligible for parole after serving seven years, according to the petition.
Kozlowski, a 1968 graduate of Seton Hall University in New Jersey, who started with Tyco as an assistant comptroller in 1976, told the board he has paid $134 million in restitution and a $70 million fine in full, according to a transcript of the April hearing. He said he sold his assets, including homes and a boat, “as quickly as possible” and has “very, very little left.”
Justice Michael Obus, who presided over Kozlowski’s trial, wrote a letter to his lawyers before the parole hearing indicating that Kozlowski “promptly complied” with the financial obligations, has conducted himself properly as an inmate and complied with work release requirements, according to the petition.
Kozlowski “openly and fully accepted” his responsibility at the hearing, has no prior criminal convictions and, at 65 years old, is in an age group that is least likely to return to prison on a violation, according to the petition.
The board failed to review a parole release plan that documented his “success as an inmate” and plans for reentry into society and also relied on a “risk and needs” assessment that mistakenly said he had been sentenced to prison before the case and that he had “basic educational needs” to be addressed, according to the petition.
“Clearly, where all of the other evidence presented to the board militated in favor of Mr. Kozlowski’s release, the Board relied instead on the erroneous information” in the assessment “in reaching its determination that Mr. Kozlowski should be denied parole because his release would pose a threat to public safety and would deprecate the seriousness of his offense,” Kozlowski said in the petition.
A jury in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan found that Kozlowski and ex-Chief Financial Officer Marc Swartz stole about $137 million from Tyco in unauthorized compensation and made $410 million from the sale of inflated stock. An earlier trial resulted in a mistrial after a juror reported receiving threats.
Jurors at both trials saw a tape of a $2 million birthday party Kozlowski threw on the Italian island of Sardinia in June 2001, financed in part by Tyco. It featured an ice sculpture of Michelangelo’s “David,” with vodka flowing from its penis, and a concert by singer Jimmy Buffett.
Kozlowski became the face of corporate greed when the government pointed to luxuries paid for with Tyco funds including a $30 million Fifth Avenue apartment with a $6,000 shower curtain, a $15,000 umbrella stand and paintings by Monet and Renoir.
Kozlowski in August settled a 10-year-old lawsuit with Tyco in which the company sought the return of money, stock and loans. Tyco, based in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, makes security systems.
Swartz, 52, who is also serving an 8 1/3 to 25 year sentence, sued Tyco in May to recover $60 million he says he is owed under agreements he made with the company when he stepped down in 2002. Swartz is also serving his sentence at Lincoln and participating in a work-release program, according to the website of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
The case is Kozlowski v. New York State Board of Parole, 104097/2012, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).