A college student who managed the prostitution ring that brought down former Gov. Eliot Spitzer was sentenced to six months in prison Thursday by a judge who praised her for trying to put her life back on track.
Cecil Suwal, 24, of the Bronx cried as she apologized and asked for mercy from U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones.
The federal probation department had recommended that Suwal receive no prison time; prosecutors had sought roughly two years.
Suwal was 18 when she got involved with a man nearly three times her age. She "became his paramour, his companion and ultimately
his assistant" at the Emperors Club VIP, a $5,500-an-hour escort service, said defense attorney Alberto A. Ebanks.
His psychological domination left her incapable of making independent decisions. A "strategically placed" tattoo on her body -- reading "property of Mark Brener" -- left no doubt she was under his control, Ebanks said.
"It is my aim to prevent others, especially young girls, from making the kind of mistakes that I have made," said Suwal, wiping away tears.
Brener, 63, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a prostitution offense and conspiracy to commit money laundering, faces between 2 and 20 years in prison when he is sentenced as early as next week.
Nearly $1 million in cash was found by investigators in the pair's Cliffside Park, N.J. apartment.
The judge said Suwal opened bank accounts for shell businesses created to hide the true nature of the operation, paid prostitutes and arranged many of the meetings with clients.
It was one such meeting in a Washington hotel last February that snared Spitzer in a controversy that led to his March resignation as governor.
Prosecutors announced in November they would not charge Spitzer after investigators found no evidence that he misused public or campaign funds for prostitution. The federal government typically does not prosecute clients of prostitution rings.
Booking agent Tanya Robin Hollander of Rhinebeck, N.Y., pleaded guilty to a prostitution conspiracy and was sentenced to a year of probation. Another booking agent, Temeka Lewis, who is enrolled at the University of Virginia, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to promoting prostitution and money laundering.
Suwal pleaded guilty last year to money laundering, conspiracy and conspiring to promote prostitution.
Ebanks said Suwal had nearly a 4.0 average in college last semester with a full course load, did charity work, had steady appropriate employment and had volunteered for a forensic psychological evaluation.
She has now "permanently severed the umbilical cord from Brener," said Ebanks.
Jones credited Suwal for going to "extraordinary lengths to put her life back on track" but said it could not completely erase the fact that she had played a central role in the escort service.
Said the defendant: "I have realized the futility and self destruction inherent in not abiding by the law."