By Larry Neumeister
NEW YORK — Former Brooklyn state Senator Carl Kruger, one-time chairman of New York state's powerful Senate Finance Committee, was sentenced to seven years in prison Thursday by a judge who said his multi-year bribery scheme struck "like daggers in the heart of honest government."
Kruger was sentenced several months after pleading guilty to criminal charges, admitting that he accepted nearly a half-million dollars in bribes from a variety of business people. He resigned the same December day from a Senate seat he had held since 1994.
On Thursday, Kruger wiped tears from his eyes as his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, argued that his client's good deeds should mean he receive less than the 9 to 11 years in prison called for by federal sentencing guidelines. Brafman calledKruger broken and unemployable and said sadness overwhelms his life.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff agreed to dip below the guidelines but offered a stinging review of the former lawmaker's crimes, saying the acts of compassion he had shown constituents were tempered by a glaring fact: "That without any need to do so, Mr. Kruger entered into long-lasting extensive bribery schemes that were frankly like daggers in the heart of honest government.
"We have only look at other countries to see that once corruption takes hold, democracy itself becomes a charade, justice becomes a mere slogan camouflaging a cesspool of self-interests," Rakoff said.
As the judge announced the prison term, Kruger shook his head, a motion consistent with the disappointment in himself that the 62-year-old expressed during comments only a few moments earlier.
"I have no one but myself to blame and that reality will haunt me for the rest of my life," he said.
He said he was sorry for bringing discredit to his fellow legislators and to his constituents for abandoning them.
"My actions will forever overshadow whatever legacy I managed to achieve," he said.
Kruger, a Democrat, was the chair of the finance committee from 2008 to 2010, when the Democrats controlled the Senate.
At the time of his guilty plea to two counts of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, the Brooklyn resident resigned from his Senate seat, which remains unfilled five months later.