Former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who was sentenced to as many as four years in prison last year after pleading guilty in a pay-to-play scandal at the pension fund he once ran, was granted parole.
Hevesi, 72, an inmate at the Mid-State Correctional Facility in Marcy, was granted release by the state Board of Parole following an appearance yesterday and may be freed as soon as Dec. 19 after a “routine community preparation investigation,” the Department of Corrections and Community Service said in a statement today.
The board found that Hevesi “would not pose a probable risk of safety to the community,” according to its decision.
Hevesi entered the state corrections system on April 15, 2011, and his earliest possible release date was April 14 of this year, the department said. He had a conditional release date of Dec. 14, 2013, and would have been released on April 14, 2015, if he served his maximum sentence.
Hevesi is scheduled to remain under community supervision through April 14, 2015, the department said. He was denied parole during his first appearance before the board last November. Hevesi has been held at the prison’s protective custody unit and received only one misbehavior report, for refusing a direct order in August.
Before his 2002 election as state comptroller, Hevesi served for eight years as New York City’s comptroller. He spent 22 years in the state Assembly, representing a district in the borough of Queens while he was a professor of political science at Queens College. He holds a doctorate in public law and government from Columbia University in New York.
Hevesi was sole trustee of the New York state pension fund from 2003 to 2006, the official responsible for managing and investing its money.
Hevesi was re-elected to a second term as state comptroller in November 2006 in the face of a finding by the state ethics commission that he had violated the law.
The next month, he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of defrauding the government and agreed to resign from office, ending his 35-year career in politics. He admitted using state employees as drivers and personal aides for his disabled wife. Hevesi’s 2006 plea deal spared him prison time.
Former New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, now the state’s governor, in 2007 started to investigate New York’s Common Retirement Fund. It is the nation’s third-largest public pension fund, valued at $150.3 billion as of March 31, according to the state comptroller’s office.
New York state in 2009 banned the use of placement agents or lobbyists in investments with the pension fund, and banned contributions from those who do business with the fund.
Hevesi pleaded guilty in October 2010 to a charge of receiving reward for official misconduct for approving a $250 million pension investment in exchange for a $1 million kickback.
Eight people have pleaded guilty in connection with the pension probe. In addition to the criminal cases, at least six people and 21 firms settled with Cuomo, paying more than $170 million.
Hevesi’s top political adviser, Hank Morris, 59, who is serving a sentence of as much as four years at the Hudson Correctional Facility in Hudson, was denied his request for parole after his second appearance before the board yesterday, the department said.
Morris was ordered held for another nine months and is scheduled to appear again before the parole board in August, the department said. The panel determined that there is a “reasonable probability” that Morris “would not live and remain at liberty without again violating the law.”
“Despite your superior education, political acumen, business savvy and success, mature age and advanced knowledge, you only superficially explored the legality of your conduct and failed to explore at all your ethical obligations as an attorney and broker,” the parole board said in its decision. “You were all too willing to engage in a lengthy and repeated course of criminal conduct.”
Morris pleaded guilty in November 2010 and was sentenced to prison in February 2011 after admitting that the investment process at the state pension fund was manipulated to benefit him, his associates and contributors to Hevesi’s campaign.
The case is People v. Hevesi, 4632/2010, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).