Disgraced former state Senator Pedro Espada Jr. was sentenced to five years in prison Friday after pleading guilty to tax fraud charges and charges that he looted his taxpayer-subsidized nonprofit Bronx health clinics. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Former state Senator Pedro Espada Jr. says he is innocent, and he has said as much every step of the way in his federal corruption trial.
"I've been targeted for my political beliefs," he said Friday. "I'm innocent in this trial. It's going to take a while to prove, but I'll endeavor."
Espada's last-minute effort to get a new trial was shot down by the judge in federal court. Instead, Espada was sentenced to five years in prison. He was ordered to pay nearly $500,000 in back taxes and stolen money.
He was convicted last May of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a government-funded health care clinic he ran in the Bronx and founded more than 30 years ago.
Prosecutors argued that Espada used the money to pay for luxury cars, fancy dinners, spa treatments and a vacation to Puerto Rico.
He also pleaded guilty to tax fraud.
He showed no remorse outside or inside the courtroom. He blamed the government, not himself, for the fate of the health clinic, known as Soundview.
"The government shut down Soundview," he said. "Twenty-five thousand people without healthcare. Hundreds of people without jobs."
Espada is a Democrat. At one point, he was among the highest-ranking politicians in Albany, serving as majority leader of the state Senate.
"This case has revealed who Pedro Espada really was all those years: a selfish man, a small man who continually blames others for his troubles," said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
Inside the courtroom, Judge Frederic Block said Espada had done some good in his life. He noted that Espada used stolen money to buy gifts for his wife, and suggested that showed a level of commitment unusual among state lawmakers.
"He may be the only politician in Albany who doesn't have a mistress," the judge said.
Espada was taken into custody immediately following the sentencing. He blew a kiss to his wife and was led out the door of the courtroom.