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08-20-2009, 08:43 AM
http://www.law.com/jsp/law/LawArticleFriendly.jsp?id=1202433192020


Ex-Justice Gerald P. Garson of Brooklyn, N.Y., was granted parole on Tuesday, 25 months after he began serving a three-to-10 year term for bribery and two related counts.

The New York Parole Board set Dec. 23, 2009, as Garson's release date and stipulated that after his release he is barred from being affiliated with a law firm.

He is also required as a condition of parole to participate in an alcohol abuse treatment program and to submit to substance abuse testing.

Garson's attorney, Jeremy Gutman, said in an interview that Garson's family and friends are "thrilled that he will be home with them next winter."

Gutman added that Garson would like to work after his release and has received several offers of employment in "various fields." Gutman declined to elaborate. Garson, 77, has been disbarred.

The Brooklyn district attorney's office in a letter to the Parole Board had "strongly opposed" granting Garson parole.

"This was an overwhelming case of greed, of [Garson's] selling his office for drinks, lunches, dinners and gifts and a violation of the trust voters and citizens of Brooklyn placed in him," wrote Michael F. Vecchione, the chief of the Rackets Division who was the lead prosecutor in Garson's trial.

Gutman said Garson had "widespread support" for his release in letters submitted to the Parole Board from "neighbors, former colleagues, including retired judges, friends and family." Garson is married, has four children and a number of grandchildren.

According to statistics provided by the New York State Division of Parole, it is unusual for inmates to be released after their first appearance before the Parole Board. In 2008, only 22 percent of inmates in the category of felonies, which includes bribery, were released after their first appearance.

Another former Brooklyn justice, Victor I. Barron, who was sentenced to a minimum term of three years for bribery in 2002, was also released after his first appearance before the board. Barron pleaded guilty to a charge of soliciting a $115,000 bribe before signing off on a $4.9 million settlement for a girl who had suffered brain injuries in a car accident.

After a month-long trial in 2007, Garson, was convicted of bribery for accepting free meals and drinks from lawyer Paul Siminovsky, who testified as a prosecution witness. In exchange, the jury found Garson had provided Siminovsky with court appointments, ex parte advice on a matter before the judge and unfettered access to his courtroom.

Garson also was convicted on two counts of receiving rewards for official misconduct: a box of cigars for providing ex parte advice and $1,000 for referring a client to Siminovsky.

Orange County Justice Jeffrey G. Berry, who presided over the trial, stacked his sentences for each of those counts to create a term of three to 10 years: one to four years for bribery and one to three years on each of the official misconduct counts.

Garson entered prison on July 7, 2007. Until May 2009, he was isolated in protective custody at the Mid-State Correctional Facility in Marcy. Since May 12, he has been in the general population at the Mid-Orange Correctional Facility in Warwick, about 60 miles north of New York City.

APPEAL PENDING

Briefing of Garson's appeal to the Appellate Division, 2nd Department, has yet to be completed. Last week, the prosecution filed its response to his appeal, and Garson's reply papers are due Sept. 30.

With that briefing schedule, experts said, the earliest the appeal would be argued would be at the end of November.

Garson's parole date was advanced slightly more than six months -- to Dec. 23 from June 26, 2010 -- upon the recommendation of the Department of Correctional Services, which found that he had successfully completed a substance and alcohol abuse program and behaved satisfactorily while in prison.

Barron likewise had his release date advanced six months.

Garson is required to comply with the condition of his parole until June 2017. Should the 2nd Department reverse his conviction, he would be released from further parole supervision.

Additional conditions of his parole are that he must refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages and comply with curfews set by his probation officer.

The requirements that he submit to drug testing and participate in alcohol treatment programs are also at the discretion of his probation officer.

The three board members who granted Garson parole are Joseph P. Crangle, a former probation officer and court analyst in domestic violence cases in Buffalo City Court; James B. Ferguson Jr., an former administrative law judge with the Division of Parole; and Debra Loomis, a former supervisor in the child protective division of the Washington County Division of Social Services.

There are 19 members of the Parole Board. They are appointed by the governor to six-year terms and earn an annual salary of $101,600.