Former Brooklyn political boss Clarence Norman Jr. and former Justice Gerald Garson appeared separately in a Brooklyn courtroom yesterday, but both left in handcuffs and headed off to prison after sentencing on corruption charges. Actually, Garson received a stay on his imprisonment while he appeals his conviction. The two disgraced public officials were sentenced in successive hearings, but both cases are related and part of the Brooklyn DA's office five year investigation into governmental corruption.
The New York Times has the full account of how, when accused by investigators of fixing divorce cases for bribes, Justice Garson agreed to wear a wire during meetings with Brooklyn political boss Clarence Norman Jr., to document how judgeships in Kings County were sold via payments to Norman and contributions to the local Democratic party organization. The article includes some gallows humor from Norman as he's headed off to jail for two to six years:
“I’m not Paris Hilton,” he said, noting that he expected to be sent to Rikers Island and on to a facility of the state’s choosing. Asked whether he had eaten a special meal on his last night of freedom, he was overheard to say, “There’s no last meal; I’m not going to die. Unless you know something I don’t know. Now I’m getting nervous.”
Garson was never actually convicted of manipulating the divorce cases before him, but was still convicted of accepting bribes and official misconduct. He faces 15 years in prison, but the cancer-stricken 70-year-old is free while he appeals his sentence. Victims whom Garson allegedly wronged during divorce proceedings (for instance, Garson would grant custody of children to the parent paying him off) were on hand at his sentencing to denounce him. Siga Levi said, "Mr. Garson, you stole my children, You stole them from their two sisters and their younger brother. You stole them from their grandparents, their aunts and uncles. I didn't get what I deserved in your courtroom, but I hope and pray that you get what you deserve in this courtroom today."
Photographs of Garson (top) and Norman (inset) by Mary Altaffer/AP