Disgraced former New York state Sen. Pedro Espada pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return in federal court Friday, a felony charge that could land him up to 87 months in prison when he is sentenced early next year.
The plea also resolves pending charges in a separate case involving the looting of a Bronx nonprofit health care network. Espada will remain free on bail until his sentencing in February.( Fri Sep 21 15:50:19 PDT 2012 $__output )
He was convicted in May of plundering thousands of dollars from the Soundview Health Network for personal use. His son, Pedro Espada Jr., had also been accused of looting the nonprofit, but the jury deadlocked on his case and all but four theft counts against his father. The elder Espada had been expected to face a retrial, but Friday's plea obviates that need.
Espada's son pleaded guilty Friday to lesser charges of theft and failure to file a tax return, both misdemeanors. He faces up to 24 months in prison at sentencing.
"These charges had nothing to do with my career as a public servant," Espada Jr. said in court. "We have accepted responsibility."
Defense lawyer Daniel Hochheiser said that the former senator believes his son has a bright future and "has a much better future" given the plea deal.
The senior Espada was at the center of the two most tumultuous years in the history of the state Senate and had described the 2010 indictment by the U.S. attorney's office and then-state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo as a political "witch hunt." The scandal cost him his Senate seat.
Espada started Soundview in 1978 in the South Bronx, which is located in one of the poorest counties in the U.S. In the past three decades, the clinic grew to include four centers that provide health care and social services.
"Instead of buying an MRI machine, he was going to Puerto Rico and raiding the mini-bar," U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, Eastern District NY, said Friday.
In a statement Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reflected on the culmination of Espada's case.
"Nearly three years ago, my Attorney General’s Office brought a case against then Senator Pedro Espada for looting his taxpayer-funded not for profit and abusing his position of public trust," Cuomo said. "Mr. Espada's reaction was to lash out again and again and to falsely disparage and accuse my Office of engaging in a politically-motivated witch hunt. Today, I give Mr. Espada the last word – when he says, 'guilty.'"