2011-05-12 / Front Page

UPDATE: Leibell gets 21 months in federal prison, 3 years probation

Investigation into wrongdoing in Putnam continues
Douglas Cunningham

Helen and Vincent Leibell, right, leave federal court after his sentencing Friday. At left are court personnel.Helen and Vincent Leibell, right, leave federal court after his sentencing Friday. At left are court personnel. The year-long fall from grace for ex-senator Vincent Leibell came to its denouement Friday afternoon in Courtroom 218 in White Plains, when Senior District Judge Warren Eginton sentenced him to 21 months in prison and three years of probation.

Leibell, Putnam County’s leading politician for many years, has already surrendered his law license and resigned his Naval commission.

In a striking development, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District said “the investigation is ongoing.” It could not immediately be learned what aspects of the investigation are continuing; among other things, authorities are believed to be probing WPD Concepts, a political consulting firm with ties to Leibell’s chief of staff, Raymond Maguire Jr.

Leibell pleaded guilty last year to obstruction of justice and accepting thousands of dollars in illegal cash payments from two lawyers – kickbacks to Leibell that he had demanded over many years because he had helped arrange the work. One of the lawyers was then-County Attorney Carl Lodes, who resisted one of the extortion demands. Lodes recounted that Leibell then told him he should not “piss on Santa’s boots.”

Leibell, in a navy blue suit and light blue shirt, did not speak during the proceeding, which took slightly more than an hour. His wife, Helen, and several family members sat in the center front row, just behind him in court. Clearly, however, Leibell was affected: At times putting on his reading glasses, then taking them off; huddling with his lawyer when Eginton asked if he wanted to speak. He and his wife held hands tightly both as they came into the courtroom and as they left.

He made no comment on leaving either the courtroom or the building. Court personnel, as is customary, had cleared a path through the media and helped him to his waiting vehicle, a dark Chevy Tahoe with license plate PC 49.

Leibell will report to prison in July. His lawyer, David Lewis of Manhattan, had argued for no jail time, while prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District sought 24 months. Lewis had no comment.

In the end, Eginton stuck with the probation officer’s recommendation, of 21 months.

Leibell was a state senator when he successfully ran for Putnam County executive last year, beating MaryEllen Odell. He resigned suddenly and pleaded guilty in December to tax evasion and obstruction of justice related to the cash kickbacks for legal work at one of his non-profit foundations.

 

See the next Putnam County News & Recorder and Putnam County Courier for complete coverage of the sentencing, the latest details, and a recounting of this stunning scandal’s impact on Putnam County.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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