A federal judge in Brooklyn on Wednesday quoted soul singer Percy Sledge in ruling that government forfeiture claims can't override the rights of imprisoned former Bronx state Sen. Pedro Espada's wife to a piece of his state pension.

After Espada was convicted in 2012 of siphoning federal funds from a nonprofit health clinic he controlled in the Bronx, he was ordered to forfeit $358,000 and prosecutors won permission to seize his pension.

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But his wife Connie filed a motion arguing payments she'll receive if she outlives her husband should be exempt, and U.S. District Judge Fred Block said Espada's "obvious love" for his wife and efforts to provide for her should not be set aside lightly.

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He quoted lyrics from the Sledge hit "When a Man Loves a Woman" -- "He'll trade the world/For the good thing he's found" -- and ruled, "The forfeiture of the widow's pension that Mrs. Espada may receive . . . will punish an innocent person for her husband's misdeeds."

Espada is serving a five-year federal prison sentence.