Ex-legislator Mystal sentenced to 5 years probation
In a quiet conclusion to a once-groundbreaking political career, former Suffolk legislator Elie Mystal was sentenced Thursday in Riverhead to five years' probation for lying about where he lived when he was a member of the county legislature.
Mystal, 64, formerly the legislature's deputy presiding officer and the body's first black member, also was ordered to pay $84,300 in restitution by County Court Judge Gary Weber. Mystal will not serve jail time, after agreeing to a plea deal with Suffolk prosecutors.
Mystal, who now lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., admitted in April that, while preparing to run for re-election in 2007, he had filed paperwork with the Suffolk Board of Elections in which he claimed he lived in Copiague. In reality, he was splitting time between homes in Huntington Station and Florida.
Huntington Station was outside the southwest Suffolk district that Mystal represented from 2004 until he resigned May 7, 2008. County law requires legislators to live in the district they represent.
After his sentencing, Mystal called the residency flap "a stupid mistake on my part."
He said he had intended to move to Copiague soon after filing the campaign paperwork. He said he wasn't paying close attention to the matter because he was getting married at the time.
"By the time I got back from my honeymoon, the damage was done," he told reporters after the sentencing.
Mystal, a Democrat, had succeeded his former boss and longtime companion, Legis. Maxine Postal (D-Amityville), who had resigned Dec. 31, 2003, one day before she died of a rare brain disorder.
Appearing relaxed, Mystal said he is retired and has no interest in resuming a career in politics.
Mystal, who pleaded guilty in April to first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, said his failure to live in the district did not affect his work as a lawmaker.
"I didn't miss any meetings [or] any appointments with my constituents," Mystal said. But he acknowledged the error ruined his career. "I was a political operative for awhile, so I should have known better," he said.