A young former aide to city Comptroller John Liu convicted in a campaign finance scheme was sentenced to just 10 months in jail Thursday after a weeping appeal to a federal judge who said he hoped the short sentence would spare her deportation.
U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan said he believed a sentence of less than 1 year might influence immigration officials to not deport former Liu campaign treasurer Jia "Jenny" Hou, 27, a Chinese citizen who has been in the United States since childhood.
"If it makes a difference to immigration officials and would allow you to stay in the country, I think that would be a good thing," said Sullivan, who indicated he initially intended to sentence Hou to 1 year and 1 day in prison.
Hou, a Queens resident, was convicted in May of participating in a scheme to unlawfully get matching funds from the New York City Campaign Finance Board by using phony "straw" donors, lying to the FBI and withholding documents from a grand jury.
Co-defendant Xing Wu "Oliver" Pan, 47, of Jersey City, a fundraiser who was also convicted in the scheme after an FBI undercover operative cajoled him to find straw donors for a Liu fundraising event, was sentenced to 4 months in prison.
Pan and Hou were both caught up in a federal investigation of onetime mayoral candidate Liu, who was never charged. Prosecutors wanted Sullivan to sentence Hou to 24 to 30 months in prison, and Pan to get 8 to 14 months.
Hou and her lawyer, Gerald Lefocourt, maintained that she was a naive aide with no campaign skills or experience who was overwhelmed by the job of treasurer, but never understood the scheme unfolding around her. Her father was a Liu donor.
"Throughout these proceedings . . . I have maintained my innocence," Hou told the judge. "With respect for the court I am not changing that position."
"In hindsight, if I did not see the forest for the trees, that is a failing for which I will pay with the rest of my life," she added, bowing to the judge and weeping as she finished.
Pan apologized for his actions.
"I have now learned that when my intuition tells me it is not right, I should not do it," Pan said.
Lefcourt and Pan's lawyer, Irwin Rochman, both said they planned to appeal the convictions.