Elie Mystal, former Suffolk County presiding officer, who plead guilty...

Elie Mystal, former Suffolk County presiding officer, who plead guilty about lying in the district that he once represented between 2007 and 2008. Credit: Photo by James Carbone

A former Suffolk deputy presiding officer pleaded guilty to a single charge Friday, admitting he lied when he said he lived in the South Shore district he had represented in 2007-08.

Elie Mystal, 64, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., will not serve any jail time under the deal reached with Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota's office. The former county lawmaker will receive 5 years' probation when he is sentenced June 23.

"I am very dismayed and hurt, mostly by the fact that no one raised a hand to say 'This man should not be punished this harshly,' " Mystal said - referring to his longtime Democratic Party loyalty.

Prosecutors said Mystal filed paperwork with the Suffolk County Board of Elections falsely stating he lived at 56 Colonial Rd. in Copiague when he was preparing to run for re-election in 2007.

In pleading guilty, Mystal acknowledged that from June 1, 2007, to May 7, 2008, when he resigned, he was not living among his constituents as required by county law. In fact, he had been splitting his time between a home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and a home in Huntington Station, owned by his wife.

"He betrayed the public trust by failing to reside in his legislative district and collecting a legislative salary," said Assistant District Attorney Spiros Moustakas.

Mystal was initially charged with one count of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree and two counts of grand larceny in the third degree - all three felonies.

In exchange for Spota's office agreeing to drop the two grand larceny charges, Mystal also agreed Friday to reimburse taxpayers $84,307.36, the salary he drew over an 11-month period as a county lawmaker.

Mystal was elected in 2004 in a special election, becoming the first African-American to sit in the Suffolk Legislature. He assumed a vacant seat after the late Maxine Postal (D-Amityville), former presiding officer of the legislature, resigned.

He was an expert campaign operative valued highly for his skill in computer targeting of voters, according to Democrats.

Mystal's lawyer, William Wexler, said Friday he believed Mystal's prosecution marked the first time a county lawmaker had been charged with violating residency requirements.

"I think they want to make an example of him," Wexler said.

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