A Nassau judge sentenced former North Hempstead Democratic Party chairman Gerard Terry on Monday to six months behind bars for a state tax fraud conviction, a punishment he’ll serve at the same time as a 3-year federal tax evasion sentence.
Terry, 64, of Roslyn Heights, appeared in court in Mineola in a business suit with no necktie and in handcuffs — the onetime attorney and influential political operative now an inmate and felon following the completion of his tax crime prosecutions.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Christopher Quinn first sent Terry to Nassau’s jail on May 15 to await sentencing in connection with his September guilty plea to one felony count of fourth-degree criminal tax fraud.
Terry resigned from or was fired from various jobs with public entities after Newsday reported in 2016 before Terry’s first arrest that he had received government contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for years, even as he accumulated a nearly $1.4 million tax debt.
Before his legal troubles, Terry had worked for public entities that included the Nassau County Board of Elections, Long Beach Housing Authority, Hempstead Housing Authority, Freeport Community Development Agency, the Roosevelt Public Library Board, Village of Port Washington North, Village of Manorhaven and the Community Development Corp. of Long Island.
On Monday, Terry’s daughter sobbed in the back of the courtroom as the now-disbarred attorney stood up at the defense table, buttoned his suit jacket, and apologized for his crime.
“I want to express my deep remorse and my absolute regret for my irresponsible conduct over a number of years regarding my taxes,” Terry said. “I take full responsibility for my actions . . . I should have known better . . . I am truly sorry.”
Prosecutor Diane Peress asked for a prison sentence of 1 1⁄3 to 4 years for Terry, calling him a “tax cheat” who is “not honest with the government” and committed more than a decade of “active and deliberate tax evasion.”
But defense attorney Stephen Scaring asked Quinn to sentence his client to time served, referencing his recent federal sentence and saying that he needs “constant medical supervision” and follow-up with regard to his prostate cancer.
The Garden City lawyer also pointed to 103 letters of support for his client, saying Terry had helped a lot of people in the community “and was a remarkable person in that respect and not so remarkable in regard to taxes.”
Quinn then meted out Terry’s state sentence under terms of his commitment at the time of his guilty plea, when the defendant admitted to not filing a 2010 state personal income tax return and not paying more than $3,000 in taxes.
The state sentence includes 5 years of probation and restitution of $250,000 to state tax authorities.
Before that plea, Terry had faced eight felony counts of tax-related crimes following a Nassau County grand jury’s indictment.
Quinn said he would stick to terms of his previous sentencing commitment despite district court documents from earlier this year that showed Terry practiced law after his felony conviction. Peress said the Nassau district attorney’s office didn’t intend to prosecute Terry for that matter, saying it appeared to be an “isolated incident” involving Terry’s wife and a landlord and tenant dispute.
Monday’s Mineola sentencing followed Terry’s May 29 sentencing in U.S. District Court in Central Islip after his October guilty plea there to one count of tax evasion. In that case, he admitted to not paying nearly $1 million in federal income taxes.
Federal prosecutors said Terry purposely failed to pay taxes from 2000 to 2015 by engaging in schemes in which he sought help from government workers, a law firm and another business. They had alleged in court papers that Terry “pressured colleagues and subordinates to not comply with IRS notices of levy.”
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Richard Donoghue said on the day of Terry’s federal sentencing that he had illegally operated under a different standard than the taxpayers he served, taking salaries from numerous governmental positions, but failing to pay taxes on those jobs.
Terry’s criminal prosecution also led to reform in the Town of North Hempstead, where officials said they would enforce — for the first time in 25 years — a requirement that town party leaders file financial disclosure forms.
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a prepared statement Monday that Terry was “a well-connected power player in Nassau politics” who “was paid generously” with taxpayer funds for his government work, but whose “repeated failures” to pay his own taxes “are a betrayal of his obligations as a citizen and an attorney.”