NEW YORK - Michael G. Grimm, a former New York congressman who resigned from office after pleading guilty to tax fraud, was given an eight-month sentence on Friday.
A federal investigation that initially focused on Grimm’s campaign fundraising turned into a 20-count indictment related to his running of a restaurant in Manhattan, Healthalicious. Prosecutors said he underreported wages and revenue to the government and filed false tax documents as a result.
“I was wrong, absolutely wrong, to pay them off the books,” Grimm said at the proceeding, just before he was sentenced by Judge Pamela K. Chen of U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.
“All my life I have scraped and I have clawed and I have killed myself to better myself,” he said, adding that he was afraid of failure. “A Marine is taught not to fail. Give me the opportunity to redeem myself.”
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Prosecutors had requested a sentence of 24 to 30 months, while defense lawyers argued for no prison time. Chen, who said that federal sentencing guidelines called for a term of 18 to 24 months, described the crime as “sustained fraud.”
”That this type of crime is common does not lessen its significance,” the judge said. “Your moral compass, Mr. Grimm, needs some reorientation.”
Grimm, a Republican, is a former Marine and FBI agent.
He was elected in 2010 to represent Staten Island and part of Brooklyn in Congress, and resigned after he pleaded guilty in December to one count of tax fraud, a felony. He is now working as a consultant to startup businesses.
A lawyer for Grimm, Daniel Rashbaum, argued for a lenient sentence in part because Grimm was a veteran and public servant.
“That cannot be ignored,” he said in court Friday.
Grimm had been punished enough, Rashbaum added, saying that he “suffered this humiliation” publicly: He left Congress and forfeited his pension; his law license has been suspended in New York and Connecticut; and he faces likely disbarment.
Rashbaum also said the defense had found 200 cases in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York with the same charge Grimm had pleaded to, noting that the defendants in those cases received probation. Prosecutors had listed 23 similar cases in which the defendant received prison time, and only six of those were in those two New York districts.
An assistant U.S. attorney, James D. Gatta, argued Grimm had not taken responsibility for his crime.
“He wants the court to accept that he is remorseful, but still, even today, he is trying to shift the blame for his conduct to others,” he said. Earlier in the hearing, there was a lengthy back-and-forth between Grimm and Chen over his role in Healthalicious, a factor in his suggested sentence.
“He wraps himself in the oaths that he has sworn when it suits him, and turns his back on those oaths when it suits him,” Gatta said.