|Pedro Espada, pictured above with his wife, leaving a |
federal courthouse in Brooklyn yesterday (photo by J. Evelly)
Judge Steven Gold said the Espadas are charged with "extremely serious crimes," that would put them in jail for "a very long time," if convicted.
Just how long of a time that might be is yet to be seen--the United States Attorney's Office said that, if convicted, the Espadas would face a maximum of 55 years, though experts predict an actual sentence would be much less.
Both men face five counts of embezzlement and one count of conspiracy for allegedly looting their network of taxpayer-funded nonprofit health care clinics, money they used to buy lavish gifts and meals for themselves and their families. You can read more details on their indictment here.
For Bronx residents in the 33rd State Senate District, the Espada debacle has a serious tinge of déjà vu--Espada's predecessor, Efrain Gonzalez, was indicted on very similar charges in 2006. At the time, Gonzalez could have faced a maximum of 30 years in prison. He was sentenced to seven years this June.
"Defendants very rarely ever get the maximum sentence," said Tony Barkow, of NYU School of Law's Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, who said Espada's federal trial could potentially draw out for years.
Espada also faces a separate civil suit brought against him this spring by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. That case would potentially mean hefty financial penalties, not jail time.
|Espada speaks to reporters following his court arraignment (photo by J. Evelly)|
“I look forward to a full and complete vindication in court,” he said.
Espada's lawyer, Susan Necheles, praised her client and talked up the Senator's role in founding Soundview, the very institution he stands accused of swindling.
"No one has done more for poor people in terms of providing health care in the Bronx," she said.