A rabbi, a priest, a congressman and a civil rights leader were among those who wrote to the judge asking for leniency in the sentencing of former North Hempstead Town Democratic chairman Gerard Terry.
Others who penned the letters on Terry’s behalf included former judges, local politicians, attorneys, school officials, a dentist and a deli owner.
But their efforts didn’t keep him out of jail.
Despite the package of 100 letters that U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert called “one of the most impressive submissions I’ve ever seen,” she sentenced Terry on Tuesday to 3 years in prison after he admitted failing to pay nearly $1 million in federal income taxes.
The letters, which are included in court documents on the case, portray Terry as an astute political functionary, a selfless community volunteer and a man who wore himself out helping others. Many asked the judge to give Terry community service rather than a jail term.
“He is truly a man that has a high moral compass and the courage to stand up for his beliefs,” wrote Dorothy L. Goosby, senior councilwoman in the Town of Hempstead. “He is a generous and unselfish human being that has led a life of purpose and sacrifice for the betterment of his family and his community.”
Others who wrote in included Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove); Hazel N. Dukes, president of the NAACP in New York; State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli; Nassau Interim Finance Authority Chairman Jon Kaiman; Hofstra Law School Dean Eric Lane; and former New York Power Authority head Richard M. Kessel.
Relatives of Terry also wrote to the judge, describing how his legal travails have destroyed his and their lives.
But Artie McConnell, an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, said in court that many of the letters were from political allies of Terry and simply showed that “the political class on Long Island takes care of itself.”
Seybert said that, while the letters were significant, Terry had engaged in “outrageous conduct for 15 years” and was driven by “greed.” She also said many in the public were “truly offended” by his dodging taxes. Terry had earned about $250,000 annually working for various public entities, prosecutors said.
Terry, 64, of Roslyn Heights, pleaded guilty on Oct. 12, 2017, to one count of federal tax evasion. In exchange for his plea, federal prosecutors dropped an obstruction charge against him.
He apologized Tuesday, acknowledged he broke the law and said, “I will do my very best to square things up with the IRS.”
Terry still faces sentencing in a state tax fraud case. He pleaded guilty on Sept. 25, 2017, to criminal tax fraud in the fourth degree and is expected to be sentenced Monday in Nassau County Court in Mineola, prosecutors said.
It must still be determined whether the sentences on the state and federal cases will run concurrently or consecutively.
Terry’s defense attorney, Stephen Scaring, called the federal sentence “a little harsh.”
In asking the judge for leniency, Dukes wrote that Terry, an attorney who has since been disbarred, had done much pro bono work in minority communities and “became an outstanding mentor in helping to develop two generations of African-American leadership in Westbury/New Cassel, the largest minority community in the Town of North Hempstead.”
DiNapoli told the judge he has known Terry since the 1960s when they attended the same junior high school. “I humbly suggest the court examine the totality of Gerard’s life, including his many years of community involvement,” he wrote.
Kessel wrote that Terry has “spent countless hours working to better peoples’ lives and improve the democracy under which we govern and live.”
Hofstra’s Lane called Terry, an attorney, “a highly respected member both of the legal and civic community.”
Kaiman wrote of Terry’s “extraordinary grasp of municipal operations” and his “articulate, calm, intelligent and thoughtful voice” when it came to running local government.
N. Scott Banks, attorney in chief for the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County, urged a “non-jail sentencing alternative” and said Terry’s “criminal actions simply do not reflect the character and integrity of the person I have known since 1999.” He said aside from the tax case, Terry has an “otherwise unblemished reputation.”
In one letter, Suozzi said he had first met Terry in 1990 and reached out to him several times after the tax case was brought.
“He was a wreck,” Suozzi wrote on March 15. “He alternated from anger to depression. . . . As I continued to call him over the ensuing months, I am certain he was contemplating suicide.”
Suozzi wrote that he put Terry in touch with a mental health professional.
Suozzi asked the judge to consider giving Terry community service rather than a jail term, perhaps working with nonprofit groups. “Gerard is smart, well-organized, insightful and effective,” Suozzi wrote. “He has a rare skill set in the world of politics, government and community service.”