Is this justice?
FORT LAUDERDALE – Former West Palm Beach City Commissioner Ray Liberti was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison Thursday for attempting to use his public office to pressure two local business owners into selling their businesses at below-market prices.Wow that $300 has to smart. Cue the sarcastic laughter.
Liberti, 60, pleaded guilty in May to two counts of mail fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. He admitted he accepted $66,000 in cash and an expensive Tag Heuer watch from the prospective buyers of Relax With Us and Club Nessum Dorma. One of the purported real estate investors was actually an FBI agent. The federal investigation began in April 2005 and culminated in a grand jury indictment in May 2006.
Prosceutors had asked that Liberti, who had served 14 years in the state House of Representatives and was first elected to the City Commission in 2001, for two years in federal prison. Under federal law, he could have been sentenced up to 50 years.
Liberti told the judge, " I know you'll never see me here again in this courtroom," then he apologized to his family, friends, backers and the public.
But prosecutor John Kastrenakes noted: "This was not an isolated incident, a one-time bad act, but a pervasive, repeated criminal conduct that took place over the span of nine months."
U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas also ordered Liberti to three years probation after his release and to pay a $300 special assessment.
As the title of my post says, is this sentence justice? Liberti a fixture in Palm Beach County politics pled guilty to charges that could carry fifty years in jail and what does he get? 18 months is all. I'm sure he'll be out of prison before that is over, maybe as soon as a year. This for betraying the public trust and for attempting to extort money from a business.
Would you or I get such leinency if were charged with extortion? I don't think so, and this is just another example of our broken and sometimes corrupt justice system. People in power rarely have to suffer real consequences for their greed. Some do, but most get little more than a slap on the wrist. Do the judges who hand down sentences ever think this encourages corruption? For if a politican has little fear of being preosecuted, it would seem they would be more likely to break the law.
Some will say Liberti has been disgraced, his wife divorced him etc and that and the 18 months in prison is more than enough. I don't think so. What is your opinion?
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