Gov. David A. Paterson has commuted the bribe-taking sentence of former Suffolk Legis. Wayne Prospect, who has served nearly a year in upstate Fishkill state prison, because he is terminally ill with cancer.
"While Wayne Prospect's actions violated the public trust," said Paterson, in a statement, "I do not believe he poses a threat to society." He added that Prospect's illness creates "compelling circumstances" for "compassion and mercy" warranting the "extraordinary relief."
The governor's statement said that Prospect, who was serving a 2 1/2- to 7 1/2-year sentence, may be able on release to receive medical treatment "for which he was not eligible in prison which could prolong his life."
Prospect's family, which lives in Dix Hills, was elated by the news, but could not say when he would be released. "We want to thank the governor from the bottom of our hearts," said Steven Prospect, the former lawmaker's brother. "The main thing is we want to get him back to Sloan-Kettering right away for treatment." He said his brother is suffering from soft tissue sarcoma in the leg and lung.
Prospect, 61, has been in prison since Oct. 3, 2008. He was sentenced after trial in 2006 of bribe receiving and conspiracy, but his jailing was delayed pending unsuccessful appeals.
Prospect was convicted after trial during which undercover detectives posing as contractors testified that the former lawmaker and Stephen Baranello, son of the former Suffolk and state Democratic chairman Dominic Baranello, took money to help them get public works contracts.
Baranello, who helped Steve Levy's rise to power as county executive, pleaded guilty shortly after the pair's 2004 arrest and testified against Prospect at trial. Baranello earlier this summer received no jail time but community service and 5 years' probation.
While in office Prospect led the successful decade-long fight to stop the opening of the Shoreham nuclear power plant. At one time he was considered among the county legislature's most powerful figures.
"I'm sure it was a humanitarian thing. I'm told he's pretty ill," said Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman.