NEW YORK — Former Miss America Bess Myerson, her millionaire convict boyfriend and the divorce court judge they are accused of illegally influencing all pleaded innocent today to federal conspiracy, mail fraud and bribe-related charges.
Myerson, former city commissioner of cultural affairs, Carl (Andy) Capasso and former state Supreme Court Justice Hortense Gabel are all charged with a conspiracy to fix Capasso's divorce.
Myerson, 63, striking in a red blouse and black suit, greeted Capasso with a kiss on the cheek as he entered the courtroom flanked by federal marshals.
She also gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before they were led away.
Capasso, 45, is serving a four-year prison term on unrelated income tax evasion charges.
Gabel, 74, entered the courtroom on the arm of her daughter, Sukhreet, whom Myerson is accused of giving a $19,000-a-year city job in order to influence the judge's decisions in Capasso's bitter divorce proceedings with his wife, Nancy.
All three defendants waived reading of the indictment before U.S. Magistrate Leonard A. Bernikow. They all face up to five years in prison, if convicted, on five counts each of conspiracy, mail fraud and bribe-related charges. Myerson faces an additional five years if convicted of obstruction of justice.
Assistant U.S. Atty. David Lawrence asked Bernikow to set bond for the two women at $250,000 each. Myerson's attorney agreed, but Michael Feldberg, attorney for Gabel, called the request "outrageous" for a former judge.
Bernikow released Gabel without bail.
Myerson and Gabel were then taken to be fingerprinted and photographed.
Myerson resigned her post as cultural affairs commissioner in April after a report prepared at the request of Mayor Edward I. Koch concluded that she had acted improperly in 1983 by hiring the judge's daughter, Sukhreet, as her assistant while the judge was handling Capasso's divorce case.
Judge Gabel significantly reduced Capasso's support payments to his former wife after Myerson hired Sukhreet.
In 1977, during Koch's first campaign for mayor, Myerson appeared on campaign posters with him and was a frequent companion, helping to dispel rumors that the soon-to-be mayor, a bachelor, was a homosexual. He now says he no longer considers her a friend.