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John Sampson, ex-leader of State Senate Democrats, gets 5 years for embezzlement

Ex-State Senate Democratic leader John Sampson, seen in

Ex-State Senate Democratic leader John Sampson, seen in 2017, was sentenced on Wednesday to 5 years in prison for embezzlement. Credit: Charles Eckert

Former State Senate Democratic leader John Sampson was sentenced Wednesday by a Brooklyn federal judge to 5 years in prison for embezzlement, but it won’t delay his expected 2021 release date on the sentence he is already serving for obstruction of justice and other charges.

Sampson, 53, of Brooklyn, is already serving a 5-year prison term for trying to cover up an embezzlement of surplus funds he held as a court-appointed foreclosure referee. The new sentence comes after an appeals court reinstated charges relating to the actual embezzlement, and Sampson agreed to plead guilty.

U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry said she took the alleged embezzlement into account when she first sentenced Sampson in 2017 on other charges, and said the new sentence would be retroactive and concurrent with her earlier sentence.

“To impose a sentence that is greater … would in some ways be in some sense a double counting of the same conduct,” Irizarry said.

Sampson was charged in 2013 with embezzling more than $400,000, urging a businessman who lent him money to cover up the embezzlement to lie to investigators, then recruiting a childhood friend who worked for the U.S. attorney to leak information about a federal probe.

Irizarry dismissed charges of embezzlement, concluding it had occurred outside the statute of limitations. In 2015, Sampson, who was elected to the Senate in 1996, resigned after being convicted of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice. Last year, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the embezzlement charges.

Prosecutors signed off last year on a deal to let Sampson serve no more jail time in return for a guilty plea, as long as the judge was agreeable.

After hearing that she was, Sampson didn’t want to mess it up when Irizarry asked if he wanted to speak. “No, your honor,” he said. “Just to be prudent.”

His lawyer, Josh Colangelo-Bryan, said the former Albany power broker had been trying to use his prison time as “constructively as possible," accepting work assignments and studying Spanish and taking other courses.

Sampson has been housed in the Brooklyn federal jail since last year. In December, Colangelo-Bryan said, he was instrumental in bringing a medical issue involving another inmate to the attention of guards, leading to the inmate’s transfer to a hospital for emergency gall bladder surgery that saved his life.

He is expected to be returned to a medium-security prison in Fairton, New Jersey, to serve the rest of his time. His scheduled release date is Sept. 23, 2021.

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