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Bess Myerson Indicted in N.Y. Bribery Probe

October 07, 1987|Associated Press

NEW YORK — Former Miss America Bess Myerson was indicted today on federal conspiracy and mail fraud charges for allegedly giving a city job to the daughter of a judge to influence her companion's divorce case.

The six-count grand jury indictment also charged Myerson, 63, the city's cultural affairs commissioner until last spring, with using interstate facilities to promote bribery and obstruction of justice.

Also named in the indictment were Myerson's millionaire boyfriend, Carl Capasso, 45, and former state Supreme Court Justice Hortense Gabel, 74, who presided over Capasso's acrimonious divorce.

Myerson, Capasso and Gabel were charged with plotting to defraud New York City and Capasso's former wife, Nancy.

False Statements

The scheme allegedly included false and misleading statements about the hiring to city officials, including Mayor Edward I. Koch, who was a close friend of Myerson.

All three defendants are charged with the bribe-related conspiracy and mail fraud. Only Myerson is charged with obstructing justice.

If convicted, she faces a maximum 30 years in prison and fines of $513,000. The others each face up to 25 years in prison and fines of $263,000.

Myerson, who became the first Jewish Miss America when she was crowned in 1945, resigned from her $83,000-a-year city post last April after an investigation commissioned by Mayor Koch accused her of "serious misconduct" in hiring Judge Gabel's daughter, Sukhreet.

Show Business Career

Koch called for the investigation after Myerson admitted invoking her Fifth Amendment rights before a federal grand jury investigating Capasso, one of the city's major sewer and water contractors, who is now in prison for tax evasion.

The Bronx-born Myerson parlayed her Miss America title into a successful show business career, appearing regularly on television shows like "I've Got a Secret" in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1969, then-Mayor John V. Lindsay named her head of the city's Department of Consumer Affairs.

In 1977 she helped Koch wage an uphill but successful battle for mayor. Her celebrity drew attention to the obscure congressman from Greenwich Village; she held hands with the candidate, deflecting rumors that the unmarried Koch was a homosexual.

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