Former State Senator Carl Kruger, once the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Commitee, was sentenced to seven years in prison today for his role in a wide-ranging bribery scheme that ensnared other lawmakers, prominent lobbyists, and several hospital administrators.
The seven-year sentence is less than the 9 to 11 years the U.S. Attorney’s Office asked for in its sentencing memorandum, which cited the “venal” nature of the offenses Kruger had committed. Kruger pled guilty to two counts of honest services fraud and two counts of bribery in December of last year, for accepting bribes from lobbyists and hospital administrators eager to influence the course of legislation in Albany. Kruger funneled the bribes through sham companies that enriched the Turano family, a mother and two sons with whom Kruger developed a close, familial relationship.
Kruger’s defense attorney Benjamin Brafman argued the former senator deserved leniency both because of the “good deeds” he had done in public office and because the bribery schemes, despite the amount of cash involved, did not seem to enrich Mr. Kruger, who still lived in a modest home and carried a passport with no stamps.
“I will never be able to figure out much of the psychology in this case,” Brafman said to the Judge, Jed Rakoff as he made a plea for gentle sentencing even as he admitted his client probably deserved jail time. Kruger had, Brafman argued, developed his bribery scheme to help the Turanos, who were the only family Kruger had.
“But for the fact that it has a horrible end, it’s sort of a nice story,” Brafman said of the closeness between Kruger and the Turanos.
“The issue of motivation is, in this case, a puzzlement,” Rakoff conceded. He asked the government’s attorneys, ” Is it your view Mr. Kruger performed these acts out of greed or ungovernable emotions?”
Prosecutor Michael Bosworth replied, “Both.”
Kruger, in a departure from previous emotional court appearances, read evenly from a prepared statement before the sentence was delivered.
“Your honor, I’m going to read this verbatim because I’m emotional,” Kruger said, holding an index card with his statement on it.
“My message is simple: I’m sorry,” he said. “I worked hard for my community as a State Senator. Now my actions will forever overshadow whatever legacy I managed to achieve,” he said. “Worst of all, I destroyed the brilliant medical career of Michael Turano. I destroyed the lives of the people I love. My prison sentence hasn’t yet started, but my punishment is well underway. I have noone to blame but myself, and that reality will haunt me for my whole life,” he said.
Prosecutor Michael Bosworth sought to show the harm in Kruger’s crimes. “He got caught,” Bosworth said, seeking to undermine the defense claim Kruger had shown genuine remorse for his crimes. “The evidence was overwhelming. Of course he’s experiencing shame now.”
In response to Brafman’s comment that there would now be an “empty fourth seat” at the Turano family’s table, Bosworth said the table in question wouldn’t have been there without Kruger’s scheme.
“The baccarat table and chairs were purchased with bribe proceeds,” he said.
“I do believe Mr. Kruger deserves some credit,” Rakoff said, after hearing defense attorney Ben Brafman’s account of his client’s public works, including helping a man with cancer and a woman whose restaurant in his district burned to the ground.
Rakoff added, “Such credit must be tempered by the glaring fact that Mr. Kruger entered into substantially long-lasting bribery schemes that frankly sent daggers into the heart of government.”
“It is difficult to overstate the evils that are wrought when public officials succumb to bribery,” Rakoff said.
“We have only to look at other countries to see that once corruption takes hold, democracy becomes a charade, justice becomes a mere slogan, camouflaging a cesspool of self-interest.”
The judge sentenced Kruger’s accomplice Michael Turano to two years imprisonment. Rakoff said he had “no doubt that he [Turano] has many wonderful qualities,” before adding, “I don’t think I can ignore the broader consequences of htis scheme. Those consequences are grave, very grave. The message must always go out that if you help corrupt our government, in any of its parts, prison is the consequence. I do not see how that can be avoided if we are to preserve the integrity of the government.”
As he spoke, Michael Turano’s mother Dorothy made soft crying noises.
“I’m pleased that the court did not impose the sentence that the government requested,” said Kruger’s attorney Ben Brafman after the sentencing hearing, adding, “I’m disappointed that it was as serious a prison sentence as it was. I understand, and we’ll go on from here.”
Kruger himself left without saying a word to the press standing outside the Manhattan courthouse in a light, drizzling rain. He walked a slow diagonal path across the stone courtyard, stepped into a black towncar, and sped off.
Kruger and Turano are both scheduled to begin their jail terms on June 26th this year.
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