Hell of a day for former State Senator Carl Kruger yesterday: Appearing in court to plead guilty to federal corruption charges, the longtime Brooklyn politician repeatedly sobbed as he admitted his guilt. With his gynecologist companion at his side, Kruger, 62, broke down and cried, telling Judge Jed S. Rakoff, "I apologize if I’m a little emotional over this." Asked if he was mentally fit to plea, Kruger said, "Under the circumstances, yes, Your Honor." NY Times columnist Michael Powell filed a vivid account of the pitiful scene, which seems worthy of a Ralph Steadman portrait:
State Senator Carl Kruger, a short pug of a man, rose slowly to his feet on Tuesday in a federal courtroom in Manhattan, and in a boyish voice that squeaked and cracked and folded in on itself, he told of his betrayals... There was something undeniably touching about watching this middle-aged man prepare to proclaim his criminal guilt and contemplate years in prison... Mr. Kruger stood stooped, gripping the back of a chair, his eyes trained on the floor, the back of his neck beet red.
And somewhere, off in the distance, a string quartet comprised entirely of tiny violins struck up Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." But Judge Rakoff wasn't there to coddle the crying crook. "Just to be crystal clear," he told Kruger, "the court can sentence you and has the discretion to sentence you anywhere from zero to 50 years." Powell hears that the plea deal will end up putting Kruger behind bars for eight years. Yesterday, he formally resigned from the Senate, as required of anyone convicted of a felony.
Kruger's Mill Basin "roommate," Michael Turano, also pleaded guilty to funneling bribery payments for Kruger into bank accounts that Turano controlled. He faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy to commit bribery. Kruger denies that he is homosexual, but the FBI's investigation revealed conversations between the men in which they used "baby talk." In one conversation, Turano tells Kruger that from the day they first met "you loved me and you wanted me."
Outside the courthouse, Kruger's attorney told reporters, "By accepting responsibility for his conduct, Senator Kruger has confirmed his respect for the integrity of the judicial process. Mr. Kruger has honestly served during a lifetime of public and community service, which although obviously flawed, is still nevertheless on balance, quite extraordinary." Extraordinary indeed. The Brooklyn Paper today published this brief listicle of Kruger's "community service." The Feds say Kruger accepted $1 million in bribes in exchange for:
- Delaying the expansion of a bill that included a five-cent deposit on bottled water.
- Altering the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law so grocery stores could begin selling wine with expanded hours.
- Fighting Walmart and other big-box stores from setting up shop in Brooklyn. (We can look the other way on that one.)
- Going to war with American Indian reservations to collect state sales taxes on cigarettes.