Sentencing set in case of NYC mayor's stolen cash

December 19, 2011 - 6:05 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — A political operative was poised to find out whether he'd go to prison after being convicted of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

John Haggerty faced the possibility of up to 15 years behind bars — or no jail time at all — at a sentencing set for Monday.

The veteran Republican consultant was convicted in October of grand larceny and other charges, after a trial that brought the billionaire mayor and a roster of high-ranking City Hall insiders to the witness stand. But Haggerty was acquitted of a higher-level grand larceny count that would have required prison time.

Prosecutors say Haggerty conned the billionaire mayor into giving a $1.1 million personal donation to the state Independence Party to underwrite a poll-watching operation in 2009, when the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-unaffiliated Bloomberg was running for re-election on the Independence Party and other lines.

Haggerty did little work and used most of the money to buy a house, prosecutors said.

Bloomberg testified that he would never have given the money had he known it wouldn't go to the extensive "ballot security" program Haggerty had detailed for the mayor's campaign aides. He'd presented a budget complete with expenditures for an office, Election Day drivers, two-way radios and some 1,300 paid poll-watchers.

"He promised things that he didn't do," Bloomberg said on the stand.

But Haggerty's lawyers said the mayor and party got the results they wanted. The defense strove portray Haggerty as a cog — and eventually a scapegoat — in a $109 million, win-at-all-costs mayoral campaign that played fast and loose with campaign finance rules and was trying to maintain a public distance from his operation.

Haggerty's $750,000 payout for the work "is a lot of money, but it wasn't a crime," defense lawyer Dennis Vacco, a former state attorney general, said in his closing argument.

Bloomberg wasn't accused of any wrongdoing. His representatives have said they viewed poll-watching as a party's job, rather than a candidate's.

Haggerty, 42, had worked for such prominent New York Republicans as former Gov. George Pataki. Haggerty also had worked on Bloomberg's 2005 campaign.

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