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Appeals panel suspends start of prison term for Fred Ippolito

Former Town of Oyster Bay Commissioner Fred Ippolito

Former Town of Oyster Bay Commissioner Fred Ippolito arrives at Federal Court for sentencing in Central Islip, Sept. 28, 2016. Credit: Ed Betz

A three-judge federal appeals panel Tuesday temporarily suspended the start of the prison sentence of former Town of Oyster Bay official Fred Ippolito while it decides if he should remain free pending an appeal.

Ippolito, 77, of Syosset, the town’s former commissioner of planning and development, was sentenced to 27 months in prison in September by U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler in Central Islip after pleading guilty to one count of a six-count tax indictment.

Ippolito had been scheduled to begin serving the sentence at the federal prison hospital in Fort Devens, Massachusetts, on Oct. 28.

But the afternoon before, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Susan Carney in Manhattan blocked the start of the sentence until the appeals panel could issue a definitive ruling on whether Ippolito should be free pending an appeal of his sentence.

The three-judge panel on the Second Circuit did not say when it would issue that ruling, but granted the temporary suspension. Judges on the panel are Jose A. Cabranes, Rosemary S. Pooler and Barrington D. Parker.

Ippolito had agreed, as part of a plea bargain, that he would not appeal if Wexler sentenced him to 27 months or less, officials said.

But Ippolito’s attorney, Robert LaRusso of Mineola, has argued in court papers and before the panel Tuesday that his client could appeal because Wexler went beyond the tax-evasion charge in sentencing him.

Wexler, during the sentencing, made remarks such as “something is corrupt in the Town of Oyster Bay” and implicated Ippolito in a conflict of interest involving a town contractor who also paid Ippolito as a consultant, La Russo said.

That was unfair and tainted the sentencing process because Ippolito had only been convicted of tax evasion, LaRusso said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Raymond Tierney argued that a district court judge is allowed to take into account the totality of a person’s conduct when handing down a sentence.

A separate three-judge Second Circuit panel is expected to decide if the appeal itself has merit. Ippolito is seeking a new sentence by a different judge.

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