Former radio sports-talk celebrity Craig Carton is seeking leniency in his upcoming sentencing for a ticket-reselling Ponzi scheme by citing a gambling addiction and “repeated instances of childhood rape and other childhood trauma,” according to a memo filed Friday in Manhattan federal court.
“Where as here mental disease and the predicates that lead to it — in this case repeated instances of childhood rape and other childhood traumas — plays a material role in a defendant’s commission of a criminal act, there should be a sentencing adjustment,” Carton’s defense lawyers wrote.
Lawyers Robert Gottlieb and Derrelle Janey said what they called a “control disorder” produced by childhood sexual assaults led to Carton’s gambling addiction and “Janus-faced” personality — an “important contributor to society” who also “lied in order to get access to money.”
Carton picked up the theme in a personal six-page letter to U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, who will sentence him, saying he was in trouble because of “my own mistakes, my own stupidity,” but also claiming he was “enslaved by my desire and my addiction to gamble.”
But he said he was dealing with the problem through treatment and Gambler’s Anonymous, and urged the judge to limit the in-prison part of his sentence so he could use a public platform and his speaking skills to help others.
“I now own it and am no longer ashamed of being an addict,” he said. “I am ashamed of my past actions though and always will be.”
Carton, the one-time loud and brash WFAN sidekick of ex-football star Boomer Esiason, was convicted last year of scamming investors in a ticket resale business, raising $4 million through lies and false promises, and diverting money to pay for personal expenses, gambling debts and previous investors.
According to testimony at trial, he took frequent gambling junkets to casinos in the Bahamas, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, using house “comps” he received as a celebrity and borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars from private lenders to support his trips.
He is scheduled to be sentenced April 5 by McMahon and faces a hypothetical maximum possible sentence of 45 years in prison. Advisory federal guidelines, the memo said, recommend 70 to 87 months. McMahon sentenced co-defendant Michael Wright to less than two years earlier this month.
Carton’s lawyers said they were including in their sentencing letter a sealed copy of an unpublished chapter of Carton’s biography “Loudmouth” that describes his child rape experiences, to persuade the judge that he wasn’t making it up as a contrivance to gain sympathy. They said the publisher advised Carton to leave it out.
“To be clear,” Gottlieb and Janey wrote, “Mr. Carton is not arguing that either his gambling addiction or the fact that he is a victim of childhood sexual assault is an excuse for his crimes. … Rather, as is appropriate for sentencing purposes, Mr. Carton provides context.”
Carton’s sentencing submission included letters of support reflecting the stable of high-profile pals he made in his heyday, including Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost, former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum, and former NFL quarterback Chris Simms, the son of ex-Giants star Phil Simms.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who praised Carton as “generous,” “honest and forthright,” and “outrageous and funny,” urged McMahon to show “compassion.” Mark Chernoff, a WFAN programming official, said the station would “welcome the opportunity to discuss” the chance of a return to WFAN for Carton if he wasn’t imprisoned.
Citing that offer, defense lawyers Gottlieb and Janey said that if Carton could earn even half of the $2 million a year they said he earned before his arrest by going back to work, he could make restitution to the victims of his scam more quickly.
Carton’s former on-air partner Esiason also weighed in with a letter of support, praising Carton’s generosity and attributing his fall from grace to gambling addiction and other mental health problems.
“While there is no way to minimize the incredibly sad situation that my friend and former partner got himself into over the past two years, I truly hope the court can see that there really was so much more to Craig Carton,” Esiason wrote.
Prosecutors are scheduled to file their sentencing recommendation next Friday.
With Jim Baumbach