A federal judge declined Thursday to increase the potential sentence Edward Walsh faces, saying the government did not prove that the former Suffolk County Conservative Party leader obstructed justice, and only showed that he illegally siphoned off $26,000 more than he was convicted of — not enough to justify possible extra prison time.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt issued his ruling after a hearing in federal court in Central Islip, after federal prosecutors argued for as much as 16 more months of incarceration.
Walsh, also a former lieutenant in the Suffolk County Sheriff’s department, was convicted in March 2016 of theft of government services and wire fraud for illegally taking more than $200,000 in pay from the department while he was not on the job, but was rather involved in political activities, golfing or gambling.
Under that conviction, Walsh faces 24 to 30 months in prison when sentenced on June 20 under federal guidelines, which judges are not required to follow, but most often do.
Prosecutors wanted Spatt to rely on the new assertions to raise the potential sentence to 37 to 46 months, according to papers filed by Walsh’s defense attorneys, William Wexler of North Babylon and Leonard Lato of Hauppauge.
The new allegations were that the amount of money that Walsh actually pocketed was more than $400,000, and that he attempted to get three potential witnesses to testify falsely in his favor at the trial, the defense attorneys said in citing the prosecutors’ papers.
While not part of charges that resulted in Walsh’s convictions, such alleged related conduct can be considered by a judge after a so-called Fatico hearing in which both sides argue about the veracity of the claims and whether they should influence sentencing.
The three witnesses who prosecutors say Walsh tried to influence were Charles Vallillo, a former county corrections officer; Charles Ewald, a Suffolk jail warden, and Vito D’Agnello, former head of the Suffolk correction officers union.
An FBI agent had questioned the three about their interactions with Walsh, and after listening to the agent’s testimony, Spatt ruled that an obstruction charge would require threats or intimidation of a witness. Spatt said Walsh didn’t say anything unlawful. “He hoped that the witnesses would help him or not show up,” the judge said.
The government also alleged that Walsh has pocketed an additional $240,000 in compensation that he did not earn between 2007 and 2010. Walsh had been convicted only of taking $202,000 while at the jail from 2011 to 2014.
But Spatt objected to the government’s only sampling several months in each of the years between 2007 and 2014, figuring Walsh illegally pocketed about $5,000 a month and then extrapolating that number to calculate a loss of about $60,000 a year.
Spatt only credited Walsh with an additional gain of $26,000, citing some months in which an FBI agent calculated a daily loss. He would have had to find that Walsh illegally gained $250,000 or more, and also obstructed justice to have him face the increased sentence.