Former New York State Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Spargo was convicted today by a federal jury in Albany, N.Y., of attempted extortion and soliciting a bribe.
Spargo, 66, was convicted following a three-day jury trial. Evidenced 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, 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 by a second solicitation communicated through an associate. 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 personal divorce proceeding would be in jeopardy.
"It is a sad day indeed when a judge breaks the laws that he is sworn to enforce," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer. "The Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section will continue in its singular mission to hold accountable wayward public officials who violate the law and the trust that has been placed in them."
"Judges are supposed to serve the people who elected them, not their own self-interests. What Mr. Spargo did is nothing more than old fashioned extortion," said FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Pikus.
The maximum statutory penalty for the charge of soliciting a bribe is 10 years in prison and the maximum penalty for the charge of attempted extortion is 20 years. Spargo also faces a maximum fine of $250,000 for each count on which he was convicted.
This case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Richard C. Pilger and Trial Attorney M. Kendall Day of the Public Integrity Section, which is headed by Chief William M. Welch II. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Albany Division.