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Larry Seabrook sentenced to 5 years in prison

Ex-New York City Council member Larry Seabrook during

Ex-New York City Council member Larry Seabrook during a news conference on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan. (June 23, 2003) Credit: Julia Gaines

Former Bronx councilman and state legislator Larry Seabrook was sentenced to 5 years in federal prison Tuesday for a scheme to channel city funds through nonprofits he controlled to a girlfriend, relatives and cronies.

Seabrook, 61, a Democrat, had asked U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts to give him no jail time despite his conviction last year on nine counts of fraud and conspiracy in recognition of his lifelong dedication to the Northeast Bronx. But the judge said he had disgraced his office.

"While the court does not doubt that the defendant did serve the public as an elected official . . . his qualities and accomplishments as a public servant are vastly diminished by his sense of entitlement, arrogance, nepotism and greed," the judge said.

Seabrook was convicted in July of using his influence over city contracts to funnel more than $1 million in city grants for job training and diversity initiatives to instead pay for excessive rents, provide his girlfriend with more than $300,000, and dole out consulting contracts instead of fulfilling the social goals of the funds.

His lawyer said he had grown up poor in South Carolina and Florida, the seventh of nine children of parents with no formal education, and became committed to politics during the civil rights battles of the 1960s. After nearly 30 years in public office, Seabrook lost his council seat after his conviction.

His defense at trial was that all the criminality relating to the funds was carried out by underlings without his knowledge, and that his sole interest had been in giving second chances and opportunities to people in the Bronx.

In remarks to Batts, he said he accepted the jury's verdict, but never said he was sorry or expressed remorse, and said that regardless of the sentence he intended to continue to fight for social justice.

"I always have given and will continue to give," Seabrook said. "I came as a proud man . . . I'll continue to fight and do what has to be done for the service of people."

He faced up to 180 years in prison. Federal sentencing guidelines, Batts concluded, called for him to serve 70 to 87 months. She said she was reducing it a little bit because of his years devoted to public service, but said any mitigation had been "deeply compromised" by his crime.

"The defendant held himself above the law," the judge said. "The defendant as a member of the City Council betrayed the public trust by using his office to enrich himself and others."

The judge also ordered Seabrook to pay $619,000 in restitution. Seabrook, accompanied by his wife, had no comment as he left court after the sentencing. He was ordered to surrender on March 8.

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