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Despite some harsh words, Eastern District Judge John Gleeson on Tuesday sentenced Edward S. Reich, a former Brooklyn Bar Association president, to 27 months in prison, which is six months less than the minimum called for by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. In imposing Reich’s sentence for accepting $10,500 in bribes while acting as a court-appointed referee in Brooklyn Supreme Court, Gleeson called the lawyer’s acts “a flat out abuse of power.” Gleeson also fined Reich $75,000 and required him to remain under court supervision for three years after his release from prison. The sentencing guidelines had called for a sentence of between 33 and 41 months in prison, and a fine of between $7,500 and $75,000. As part of the plea agreement, Reich had paid $10,500 in restitution, surrendered his law license and closed his Court Street office. Judge Gleeson also recommended to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, at Reich’s request, that he be confined to Otisville Prison Camp, a federal facility in Otisville, N.Y. The Orange County prison is one of the least restrictive in the federal system. He also allowed Reich, 68, to remain free until after Yom Kippur, the Jewish high holiday. Reich remains on $500,000 bail until he surrenders on Oct. 17. Reich’s Dec. 19, 2003, arrest on charges of accepting bribes while acting as a referee over three foreclosure sales shattered his career as leader of the Brooklyn bar. In addition to being a bar association president, Reich headed the group’s Judiciary Committee for 27 years. He was also a former vice-president of the New York State Bar Association and a member of the grievance committee responsible for disciplining lawyers in Brooklyn and Queens. Reich had submitted a packet of more than 20 letters from bar leaders and others, including Eastern District Chief Bankruptcy Judge Conrad B. Duberstein, asking Gleeson to be lenient in sentencing. Many of the letters called Reich’s acceptance of bribes “aberrational” and pointed to his generosity as a mentor and his extensive volunteer activities. Gleeson was moved by the depiction of Reich in his lawyers’ submissions as a man shunned by lawyers and judges who had previously been his friends. But the judge rejected the notion that the ostracism was a form of punishment. Instead, he said, it was a predictable reaction from professionals who toil in the legal system and suffer when the public’s faith in it is diminished. Gleeson was critical of Reich’s claim that no one had been hurt financially because of the bribery scheme. Reich “still doesn’t get it,” Gleeson said. His actions have caused “enormous, inestimable, incalculable loss” to the public’s faith in the judicial system, he added. In departing from the sentencing guidelines, Judge Gleeson said he was influenced by Reich’s health, age and his agreement to pay restitution in the full amount of the bribes he had received. Gleeson imposed the sentence after hearing Reich read a statement in which he “accepted full responsibility” for his actions and “apologize[d] to the court and legal community.” Members of Reich’s family, including his wife and three grown children, were in court for Tuesday’s sentencing. Gleeson referred to their presence in the front row of the courtroom several times during his remarks. Reich was described in a submission by one of his lawyers, Michael S. Washor, as having diabetes, high blood pressure, ulcers and multiple allergies. Washor urged Gleeson to depart from the sentencing guidelines but did not offer a recommendation. His other lawyer, Roger B. Adler, who preceded Reich as president of the Brooklyn Bar Association, recommended a term of one year and a day. ‘NAKED ARROGANCE AND GREED’ The lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Breslow, asked Judge Gleeson to hew to the guidelines range, asserting that Reich had acted out of “naked arrogance and greed.” According to the presentencing report, Breslow said, Reich has $1.6 million in personal bank accounts. In departing from the guidelines, Gleeson was exercising the discretion created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year in U.S. v. Booker, 125 S. Ct. 1006, finding that judges could look to the guidelines in imposing sentence but were not bound by them. On the single conspiracy count to which Reich pleaded, the judge could have given probation as a minimum or 5 years as a maximum. Originally Reich had been charged with 16 counts. When he pleaded guilty in March, Reich acknowledged accepting bribes to lower the purchase price in an accepted bid and to arrange for the return of a down payment after the winning bidder decided not to go through with a deal. He also allowed one bidder to pay less than the required 10 percent down payment. At his plea, Reich also admitted making a false statement in an affidavit filed in conjunction with his motion to suppress statements he had made to agents while he was being detained, first in his home and later at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s headquarters in Manhattan. In the affidavit, Reich stated he was unaware that he was not required to answer the agents’ questions. Reich was not publicly charged until a month after his arrest in December 2003. During that time, according to information filed by both sides in pretrial motions, FBI agents pressed him to cooperate in an investigation of corruption of the state judiciary in Brooklyn. Reich, however, steadfastly claimed he had no knowledge of corruption to share with the agents.

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