Former New York State Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Spargo was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe in Albany, N.Y. to 27 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release for attempted extortion and bribery, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge John F. Pikus of the FBI’s Albany office announced.
A federal jury convicted Spargo, 66, on Aug. 27, 2009. Evidence introduced at trial showed that on Nov. 13, 2003, Spargo solicited a $10,000 payment from an attorney with cases pending before him in Ulster County, N.Y., while Spargo was serving as a state supreme court justice. The trial evidence showed that when the attorney declined to pay the money, Spargo increased the pressure to pay by a second solicitation communicated through an associate. Finally, according to evidence presented at trial, on Dec. 19, 2003, Spargo directly told the attorney in a telephone conversation that he and another judge close to him had been assigned to handle cases in Ulster County, including the attorney’s personal divorce case. According to the evidence at trial, the attorney felt that if he did not pay the money, both the cases handled by his law firm and his interests in his personal divorce proceeding would be in jeopardy.
"Fair and impartial judgment by those entrusted to carry out the laws is the bedrock of our legal system. When those sworn to uphold the law violate it, they will be held accountable," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer. "We cannot and will not allow the public’s faith in our legal system to be shaken by judicial corruption."
"The FBI wants to assure those who have been extorted by public officials that investigating such crimes is the highest priority of our agency. As our recent public corruption convictions illustrate, the FBI will continue to focus on corruption occurring in all branches of New York State government," said FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Pikus.
State authorities separately removed Spargo from the bench before his trial and disbarred him after his conviction.
This case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Richard C. Pilger and Trial Attorney M. Kendall Day of the Public Integrity Section. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Albany Division.