This once-powerful pol has lost his clout.
Federal judge Dora Irizarry sentenced disgraced Canarsie state Sen. John Sampson to five years in prison on Wednesday — and a $75,000 fine — despite his attorneys’ pleas for a cushy one-year sentence for obstructing justice and lying to federal agents during an embezzlement investigation.
Sampson, an attorney who was once the senate minority leader and chairman of the body’s Ethics Committee before being forced to step down after he was found guilty in 2015, should have known better than to break the law for his own gain, Irizarry said during his Jan. 18 sentencing.
“When before the court is someone who raised his hand and took an oath to protect and defend and obey the laws and constitutions of this state and of this country, and you took actions that go toward attacking the integrity of the process, I don’t know of any more serious offence,” said Irizarry. “Where it has suited you, you have sidestepped obligations and the law and if it hurt someone else then so be it. It’s disturbing, we have a pattern here set forth.”
Sampson presided over the sale of foreclosed properties in the late 1990s and early 2000s and stole $440,000 from related escrow accounts — then he tried to hide it. His friend gave him $188,500 to replace the stolen funds in 2006, and he also got a paralegal in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn to find out if he himself was under investigation, according information from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Irizarry threw out the actual embezzlement charges back in 2015 because the statute of limitations had passed.
Sampson’s attorneys read from letters commending his service and his community ahead of his sentencing with the hopes he would get off easier. But criminal politicians should not get special treatment simply for doing their jobs — and some of the good may have been done with ill-gotten cash, the judge said.
“I understand that you’ve done some good things, the letters attest to it. But I have to concur with the government that that’s what you’re supposed to do as an elected official,” said Irizarry. “As I sat there reading the letters of people who said, ‘Well he paid for this person’s medical expenses — and provided this or he provided that,’ I have to wonder whether that money didn’t come from some of these embezzled funds.”
Sampson framed himself as the victim before apologizing.
“For five years I’ve been living a nightmare. To hear how I have been portrayed in the media, here in court, I sometimes ask myself, ‘Is that really me?’ I always thought of myself as someone who looked out for the disadvantaged — people who had no voice,” he said. “However, I realize that no matter how many positive things you can do in life, they can always be overshadowed by one incident or a couple. I understand these actions have caused suffering to my family, to my constituents, to my friends. Your honor, I apologize for my actions, but most of all I apologize for not respecting others, because if I had taken into consideration others and not myself, maybe I wouldn’t be in this predicament I’m in today.”
Sampson’s attorneys plan to appeal, but Irizarry denied their request for bail fearing the disgraced lawmaker would flee to Guyana.