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Rep. Biaggi Gets 2 1/2-Year Sentence, Fined $500,000

November 05, 1987|Associated Press

NEW YORK — Rep. Mario Biaggi was sentenced today to 2 1/2 years in jail and fined $500,000 for illegally accepting free vacations from a political ally.

U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein said the congressman's crimes were "bred in greed and arrogance," but he took into consideration Biaggi's years in public service and the 70-year-old lawmaker's health problems.

The judge said he felt saddened in sentencing Biaggi because "I feel a great deal of affection for the defendant."

Biaggi could have been sentenced to up to 12 years in prison and fined $750,000.

Biaggi was convicted of accepting a gratuity--a free vacation for himself and a woman companion--from former Brooklyn Democratic boss Meade Esposito in exchange for the congressman's efforts on behalf of Coastal Dry Dock, a Brooklyn ship-repair company that was a major client of Esposito's insurance brokerage firm.

He was also convicted of interstate travel to commit a crime and obstruction of justice.

Esposito, 80, was convicted of paying the illegal gratuities and illegal interstate travel. He was sentenced Oct. 23 by Weinstein to a two-year suspended prison term, a maximum fine of $500,000, two years' probation and 500 hours of community service.

Biaggi, a 10-term congressman, is the senior member of the city's congressional delegation and was the most decorated member of the city's police force before beginning his political career.

Biaggi did not appear to move a muscle when the sentence was passed down, but he cried while giving an impassioned speech before sentencing.

"Did I do something wrong?" he asked. "I don't think I did. Maybe I did. Your honor, the only thing that I did was accept some hospitality from an old, dear friend," he said.

But Edward McDonald, chief of the Justice Department's Organized Crime Strike Force, said Biaggi "violated the trust of the people of this city. With his background, he knew better. He knew exactly what he was doing."

On Wednesday, the House ethics committee announced that it will conduct a disciplinary hearing "as soon as is practicable" to decide what sanctions to recommend for Biaggi.

The congressman still faces racketeering and bribery charges in the Wedtech case in federal court in Manhattan. That case, scheduled for trial in January, alleges a bribe scheme between public officials and the Wedtech Corp., a military contractor in the Bronx.

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