A former Nassau County legislator insisted on his innocence before surrendering Monday to go to prison following his 2012 conviction in a scheme to steer an $80 million New Cassel redevelopment project to a favored developer.
Democrat Roger Corbin, 70, of Westbury, surrendered after the state’s highest court recently declined to hear his appeal. He is to serve 2 to 6 years in prison for taking bribes and official misconduct.
“I’m not this crooked person that they said I was,” Corbin told Newsday before heading into a Nassau County courtroom to turn himself in. “. . . There’s nothing I did wrong.”
As a civil rights activist, Corbin helped create the 19-member Nassau Legislature in the 1990s to provide the possibility of greater minority representation in local government.
A federal judge in 2010 sentenced him to 18 months in prison for evading taxes on payments he got from a developer working on government contracts in his legislative district who also was at the center of the New Cassel corruption case the Nassau district attorney’s office prosecuted.
Corbin also said Monday he was saddened to leave his family for prison, adding: “It’s like the system, if you don’t have money, you’re not going to get justice in this country. And particularly a black man definitely don’t get any justice. And that’s . . . a shame.”
The state Court of Appeals in Albany also recently declined to hear appeals from Corbin’s co-defendants, Patrick Williams, another former Democratic county legislator, and Neville Mullings, who had run the North Hempstead Community Development Agency.
Williams, 69, of Uniondale, surrendered last week to begin his 1-year jail sentence following a conspiracy conviction. Mullings, now 76, of Westbury, will serve 9 months in jail for conspiracy and official misconduct and is expected to surrender later this week.
In 2012, a Nassau jury convicted the trio on charges stemming from a 2010 indictment that said they steered a project — that later failed — to revitalize New Cassel’s downtown to a developer willing to “pay to play,” sold false exclusivity rights to a bank, and stole $150,000 in public funds.
In 2014, current Court of Claims Judge Alan Honorof sentenced all three men, but an appellate court stayed their sentences while considering their appeals as they remained free on six-figure bonds. In January, that lower appellate court then upheld all three convictions.
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a prepared statement Monday in response to Corbin’s surrender and comments that his sentence was “a reminder that regardless of their party or position, when government officials break the law and victimize the taxpayers for private gain, we will prosecute them, and hold them accountable.”