Vincent Leibell surrendered to the United States Marshals Service Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the Federal Corrections Institution in Loretto, Penn., where the former state senator has been processed into a federal prison work camp to serve a 21-month prison sentence for federal corruption.
The Pennsylvania prison, an all male facility, is over 300 miles from White Plains, where he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and obstruction of justice, both felonies, last December at the federal courthouse.
Leibell, a Republican who spent 28 years in state government, most recently represented New York’s 40th Senate District. Prior to accepting a plea bargain, he resigned from office just one month before his senate term was set to expire.
But Leibell’s conviction did not hinder his public-funded pension, which has been estimated at roughly $71,000 a year. It did, however, automatically disbar him from ever practicing law in the future -- he worked as an assistant district attorney in Westchester before running for public office.
Although the Federal Bureau of Prisons would not release the exact reason why he was sent to this particular prison, spokesperson Chris Burke said that it is a policy to place inmates within a 500-mile radius of his or her home. He added that the needs of an inmate, such as his or her health, offense level, and populations within prisons, are all factors for prison placement.
In addition to his less than two-year jail sentence, Leibell, 64, was instructed by Senior U.S. District Judge Warren Eginton to pay $20,000 in back taxes to the state. After his stint in prison, which could be shortened for good behavior, he is subject to three years probation.
Shortly before sentencing, Leibell proclaimed his preferred punishment: rather than serve jail time, Leibell said he should volunteer as a diplomat in the Middle East so that he could continue serving his country. This suggestion spawned an overwhelming public outcry that left people wondering if they should be infuriated, while others merely found it laughable.
After his sentence was determined, Leibell’s successor, Greg Ball (R,C – Patterson), commented that Leibell’s request for leniency by “seeking ‘overseas nation building’ duty in lieu of jail time, [was] a final indictment on his complete disconnect from reality and justice.”
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Carbone, Leibell threatened two local lawyers, who were working for his nonprofit senior housing agency, that they would be fired if they didn’t kick back half of their pay to him. Carbone reported that in April 2010, Leibell met with one of the lawyers, who was wearing a wire, and specifically told him to lie to federal agents about the money transactions.
In June 2010, it was reported that the FBI had subpoenaed documents relating to the construction of Leibell’s home in Patterson, N.Y. Still, Leibell ran successfully for county executive of Putnam, but renounced the position just weeks after winning in the general election.
Leibell served 16 years in the New York State Senate and 12 years in the Assembly – serving parts of Westchester, Putnam, and Duchess Counties for nearly 30 years. With almost three decades spent in Albany, Leibell administered millions of taxpayer dollars, in the form of grant money, to various foundations – including to two nonprofit organizations that he founded.
Following his conviction, more than 100 letters were reportedly submitted to the Judge Eginton from local residents, politicians, and the friends and family of Leibell.
Lynette Burns, a former Somers councilwoman and resident of Katonah, wrote a letter stating that as the mother of a Marine lieutenant, she was offended that Leibell claimed he wanted to serve in the Middle East to avoid confinement. “I urge you to treat Senator Leibell equally and fairly under the law and consider the maximum sentence as permitted by law, the law he took an oath to serve and uphold,” she said.
Still, many of the letters spoke of Leibell’s character and cited his positive contributions to the communities that he represented.
In an attempt to eliminate corruption and restore the public’s trust in government, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman established offices of public integrity throughout New York last month. “Designating a public integrity officer here will go a long way to root out corruption and address the concerns of local taxpayers,” Schneiderman said in a press release.
Wanda Perez-Maldonado has been appointed as the “cop on the beat” for Westchester-Putnam-Rockland region’s public integrity officer. Perez-Maldonado said she did not wish to comment about Leibell.
What do you think about former state senator Vincent Leibell’s sentencing and prison placement? Let us know by commenting below.