Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

UNITED STATES v. BRENNAN

February 3, 1986.

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
v.
William C. BRENNAN, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINSTEIN

REVISED SENTENCING MEMORANDUM

WEINSTEIN, Chief Judge:

 After an extensive jury trial the defendant, William C. Brennan, has been found guilty of soliciting and accepting a series of bribes to fix cases in his court over many years. This most serious of crimes attacks the foundation of our judicial system and the faith of citizens in its impartiality.

 We have set forth below our explanation of the sentence in some detail for two reasons. First, many communications to the court and testimony of defendant's friends at the trial suggested that the crime is out of character. They emphasized the defendant's otherwise unblemished career as a public official and judge and his fine family and community background. Second, it is important for the public to understand that such a crime by a judge is almost unique in the recent annals of New York courts and that it will not be tolerated.

 I. THE CRIMES Six separate bribe transactions were charged and proved. Since each telephone call and trip in connection with an interstate crime, as well as each bribe itself, is a separate crime, twenty-six separate felonies were committed. Set out below is a table briefly describing the twenty-six crimes, the applicable statutes and the statutory maximum penalties. CRIMES AND PENALTIES Count Description of Statute Maximum Maximum Assessment Crime Imprisonment Fine 1 RICO: 2 or more predicate crimes in aid of racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1962 20 years $ 25,000 $50 2 Conspiracy to commit RICO 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) 20 years 25,000 50 3 Interstate travel in aid of racketeering: Romano case 11/28/80 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a) 5 years 10,000 50 4 Interstate telephone call in aid of racketeering: Romano case 12/07/80; call from Florida 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a) 5 years 10,000 50 5 Interstate telephone call in aid of racketeering: Romano case 12/07/80; call from Queens 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a) 5 years 10,000 50 6 Interstate telephone call in aid of racketeering: Romano case 12/07/80; call from Florida 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a) 5 years 10,000 50 7 Interstate telephone call in aid of racketeering: Romano case 12/09/80; call from Florida 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a) 5 years 10,000 50 8 Interstate telephone call in aid of racketeering: Romano case 12/09/80; call from Florida 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a) 5 years $ 10,000 $ 50 9 Interstate telephone call in aid of racketeering: Romano case 12/10/80; call from Florida 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a) 5 years 10,000 50 10 Interstate travel in aid of racketeering: Romano case 12/10/80; call from Florida 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a) 5 years 10,000 50 11 Wire fraud: Romano case 12/07/80; call from Florida to Queens 18 U.S.C. § 1343 5 years 1,000 50 12 Wire fraud: Romano case 12/07/80; call from Queens to Florida 18 U.S.C. § 1343 5 years 1,000 50 13 Wire fraud: Romano case 12/07/80; call from Florida to Floral Park 18 U.S.C. § 1343 5 years 1,000 50 14 Wire fraud: Romano case 12/09/80; call from Florida to Queens 18 U.S.C. § 1343 5 years 1,000 50 15 Wire fraud: Romano case 12/09/80; call from Florida to Floral Park 18 U.S.C. § 1343 5 years 1,000 50 16 Wire fraud: Polisi case, 12/10/80 18 U.S.C. § 1343(a) 5 years 1,000 50 17 Interstate telephone call in aid of racketeering: Polisi case, 02/01/85 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a) 5 years 10,000 50 18 Interstate travel in aid of racketeering: Polisi case, 02/02/85 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a) 5 years 10,000 50 19 Interstate travel in aid of racketeering: Polisi case, 02/13/85 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a) 5 years 10,000 50 20 Interstate travel in aid of racketeering: Polisi case, 02/17/85 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a) 5 years 10,000 50 21 Interstate telephone call in aid of racketeering: Polisi case, 02/20/85 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a) 5 years $ 10,000 $ 50 22 Interstate telephone call in aid of racketeering: Polisi case, 02/20/85 18 U.S.C. § 1952(a) 5 years 10,000 50 23 Wire fraud: Polisi case, 02/01/85 18 U.S.C. § 1343 5 years 1,000 50 24 Wire fraud: Polisi case, 02/20/85 18 U.S.C. § 1343 5 years 1,000 50 25 Wire fraud: Polisi case, 02/22/85 18 U.S.C. § 1343 5 years 1,000 50 26 Interference with commerce by attempted extortion: Polisi case 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) 20 years 10,000 50 TOTALS 175 years $209,000 $1,300

 Since penalties can be cumulative the maximum term of imprisonment to which the defendant is liable is 175 years and the maximum fine is $209,000. It is unusual to cumulate terms of imprisonment. The issue is where, between 0 to 20 years in prison and $0 to $209,000 for a fine, should penalties be fixed.

 A mandatory assessment of $50 for each felony count of which the defendant was convicted totals $1300. This cumulative penalty is required by the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984. See 18 U.S.C. § 3013. Receipts collected under the assessment statute are used to create a fund to assist crime victims. See S.Rep. No. 497, 98th Cong., 2d Sess., reprinted in 1984 U.S.Code Cong. & Ad.News 3182, 3607.

 While defendant received much more in bribes, the government seeks forfeiture of only $14,000. 18 U.S.C. § 1963. The reason for this reduced demand is discussed below.

 A. FACTS

 Investigation of the defendant's activities began early in 1981 when a confidential informant told federal officials that William C. Brennan, a Justice of the Supreme Court, Queens County, State of New York, sitting in Criminal Term, could be bribed. Other informants confirmed these allegations. They were, in brief, that the defendant, who was first elected to the Supreme Court of Queens County in 1970 and re-elected for another fourteen year term in 1984, began to take bribes shortly after his first election. Since Judge Brennan was responsible for presiding over felony cases in the main courthouse of Queens his opportunity to corrupt justice was apparent.

 Key government witnesses were Anthony Bruno, a restauranteur, associate of criminals and long-time friend of the defendant; and Nicholas Botta and Salvatore Polisi, two recidivists with substantial connections to the underworld. There were a large number of supporting witnesses. Extensive interlocking telephone calls automatically recorded on telephone company billing records showed Bruno's relationships with the defendant and various criminals in connection with the bribes. Surveillances, court-authorized wiretaps and bugging during the course of the investigation and one wiretap independent of the investigation confirmed much of the details of the testimony. Data in court records demonstrated how the cases were disposed of.

 The defendant received and made bribe related telephone calls in the courthouse. He saw one briber in chambers. Witnesses such as a supervising probation officer and a probation officer in charge of a case contradicted statements of the defendant.

 The defense consisted almost entirely of character witnesses who testified that the defendant's background was incompatible with the accusations. The defendant did not take the stand despite the damning testimony against him which was not shaken by defense counsel's vigorous cross-examination. Had he done so, he would have had to either perjure himself or admit that he was strongly influenced in his disposition of cases by his friend, Anthony Bruno, who was acting on behalf of criminals. He might have denied taking cash, but he would have had to admit activities devastating to his career as a judge, requiring his immediate removal from office.

 We set out below a brief synopsis of various instances of defendant's corruption between 1972 and 1985.

 1. JOSEPH PASTORE

 In the early 1970s, Joseph Pastore, a childhood friend of Bruno, was arrested for possession of stolen property in Queens County. Pastore's case was pending before the defendant. Pastore was aware of the close friendship between Anthony Bruno, who operated a restaurant near the court, and Judge Brennan. Bruno and Brennan ate at various restaurants together, attended race tracks together and vacationed together.

 Pastore asked for Bruno's help, offering to pay for a favorable disposition. Bruno discussed the matter with the defendant who volunteered that something could be done for $10,000.00. Bruno, acting in what became an accustomed role of middleman -- or, in the argot of the criminal world, bagman -- advised Pastore that Brennan wanted $10,000 to fix the case. Pastore paid the $10,000 in cash. Bruno turned it over to defendant. On November 5, 1973, Pastore was granted a conditional discharge, followed ultimately by dismissal. Pastore expressed satisfaction with the deal.

 2. NICHOLAS BOTTA AND LARRY MESSINA

 Nicholas Botta was a professional gambler with a long criminal record as a bookmaker. His partner in bookmaking was Larry Messina. Botta had been an acquaintance of Anthony Bruno since the 1950s.

 In the mid-1970s, Botta approached Bruno and asked him to intercede with Brennan because Messina had been arrested for gambling and was awaiting trial before Brennan. He also noted that he had himself been sentenced by Judge Brennan in 1972 to a five-year probation term and that probation was interfering with his criminal activities.

 For $15,000 both cases were fixed. Bruno collected this sum in cash and paid it to the defendant.

 Messina's case for promoting gambling was dismissed by Judge Brennan in 1974 for failure to prosecute. As for Botta, he met Brennan in his chambers and subsequently Bruno informed Botta that his probation had been terminated. The record makes it clear that the Probation Service opposed this early termination and that nevertheless the judge dictated into the record a misstatement that termination was with the Probation Service's approval.

 3. DOMINICK CATALDO

 Dominick Cataldo, a confirmed criminal, approached Bruno, a long-time acquaintance, in the mid-1970s. He had a criminal case pending before Judge Brennan. While the prosecution's case appeared to be weak, he wanted insurance. For $3,000, identification evidence was suppressed and the indictment was dismissed.

 4. JACKIE DONNELLY

 Jackie Donnelly was a member of the criminal class and a close associate of Dominick Cataldo. He had been informed of the services available from Brennan through Bruno. Donnelly was arrested in Queens for possession of a weapon. His case was pending before Judge Brennan.

 A price of $15,000 was agreed upon: $10,000 for the judge and $5,000 for the broker. The case was reduced to a misdemeanor and Donnelly was sentenced by Brennan to a $250 fine and time served.

 5. JOHN ROMANO

 Dominick Cataldo, a "made member" of an organized crime gang, had continued use for Bruno's and Brennan's help in cases involving friends and associates. In February 1980 he told Bruno that a friend, Anthony "Footsie" Romano, needed Brennan's assistance in a case involving Anthony's son, John. John had been indicted for attempted murder and he was awaiting trial before Judge Brennan. Cataldo insisted on a dismissal since John was already on probation and could not afford another conviction of any kind.

 Brennan set a price of $15,000. To Bruno's surprise, Cataldo turned down the deal, informing Bruno that other arrangements had been made. In fact there was apparently some sort of a scam, since Brennan informed Bruno that no arrangements for payments to him had been made. He assured Bruno that he used no other intermediary.

 Brennan tried the Romano case without a jury. According to Bruno, Brennan and he discussed the issue of whether John should be found guilty. Bruno suggested that it would be a "good lesson" to convict John since apparently John's attorney was keeping the payoff money instead of passing it on to the judge. Brennan convicted John Romano of assault and possession of a weapon in July of 1980.

 In November of 1980, Botta approached Bruno about the Romano case. By that time Bruno had sold his Queens restaurant and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he had opened another restaurant, the "Runway 84." "Footsie," the father of John, had importuned Larry Messina to request Botta to ask Bruno to intervene with Brennan.

 Bruno spoke to the judge who indicated that something could be done because of a "loophole" in the case. He demanded and received $15,000.

 As part of the scheme a perjurious affidavit from one Geno Parisi, then ensconsed in a penitentiary, was produced. On the basis of that "newly discovered evidence" a new trial was granted by Judge Brennan in 1981. This time a jury was requested. In a trial before another judge the defendant was found not guilty.

 6. SALVATORE POLISI

 In May of 1984 Salvatore Polisi, a career criminal, was arrested in Queens and charged in the state court with the sale of cocaine. Since he had previously been convicted of forgery, gambling, and robbery and was a known associate of the organized crime fraternity, Polisi faced a long prison term. He decided it would be in his interest to approach the Federal Bureau of Investigation and seek employment as an informant.

 Polisi was aware that Justice Brennan had a reputation in the criminal community for taking bribes. He stated that he, himself, had at one time paid $75,000 to an attorney (who agreed to give it to the defendant) for his wife's and brother-in-law's cases to be disposed of with a small fine and for his own to be handled favorably. The attorney had told Polisi that he had delivered the money to the defendant, but the defendant told Bruno that this was untrue.

 A deal was struck between the F.B.I. and Polisi to seek evidence against Bruno and Brennan. In January of 1985, acting under the tutelage of the F.B.I., Polisi met with Joseph Cataldo, the brother of Dominick Cataldo, a satisfied customer. He asked for help in approaching Anthony Bruno since he was aware that Dominick Cataldo had had cases fixed for himself and close associates. Joseph Cataldo agreed to contact Bruno in Florida. During the introductory call to Bruno vouching for Polisi background voices from other criminal figures gave Bruno the necessary assurance that he was in fact being approached by bona fide members of the underworld.

 Polisi proceeded to Bruno's restaurant in Fort Lauderdale where Bruno told him that he would have to check with Judge Brennan. Their meeting was fortuitous since Brennan was about to arrive in Florida for a winter vacation.

 This first meeting between Bruno and Polisi took place on January 31. The next day, February 1, 1985, Bruno called Brennan in Queens. Brennan pointed out that the case was pending before another judge and, therefore, the fix would cost Polisi a great deal of money. Brennan agreed to look into the matter. Court records show that almost at once Polisi's file was delivered to Brennan's chambers.

 On February 2 Brennan arrived in Florida and told Bruno he had reviewed the Polisi court file. He gave Bruno key information from the file. Since he and his friend, the judge, were spending the day at the Gulfstream Racetrack, Bruno wrote the information on a betting slip. The slip was later retrieved and constituted an important piece of evidence since it contained information that could not have come to Bruno except from someone cognizant of the details of criminal proceedings in Queens.

 Pursuant to Brennan's instructions, Bruno informed Polisi that a $25,000 down payment was required. Further negotiations between Bruno and Polisi and Bruno and Brennan took place in Florida and by telephone between New York and Florida.

 Polisi pressed for confirmation from Brennan, raising Brennan's suspicions. The judge told Bruno that he was "too old to go to jail." Nevertheless, his suspicions were assuaged and arrangements for the bribe went forward.

 Brennan returned to New York. Bruno received the $25,000 down payment in Florida.

 Alerted to the fact that the F.B.I. was conducting a surveillance near his restaurant, Bruno became nervous. On February 21, the defendant detected signs of surveillance in New York. He called Bruno and told him not to fly to New York with the money, but to await further instructions.

 By March 4 it was fairly clear to Brennan that he was being followed by the F.B.I. Brennan called Bruno and ordered, "Tell your friend that the apartment is not available. Tell him to go elsewhere. Give him back the deposit." Bruno then gave Polisi back the $25,000. On March 7 Bruno was arrested in Florida.

 On March 11, the defendant was interviewed in Queens. He admitted that Bruno was his friend, but denied ever having heard of Salvatore Polisi. He also denied ever speaking with Bruno about any case pending in the Queens courthouse. On July 26 Judge Brennan was indicted.

 B. STATUTES

 The crimes charged were racketeering, bribe receiving, interstate travel in aid of racketeering, fraud by interstate telephone, attempted extortion and conspiracy to engage in a racketeering enterprise. The defendant was indicted as a principal and conspirator as well as an aider and abettor.

 The first two counts of the indictment alleged violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, known as the RICO statute. Count One charged the defendant William C. Brennan with conducting or participating in the conduct of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Queens County, through a pattern of racketeering activity consisting of four racketeering acts. Count Two charged the defendant with conspiring with other persons to violate the RICO statute.

 Under Count One, one of the elements that the government proved was that the defendant committed at least two of the four racketeering acts charged. Under Count Two, one of the elements that the Government proved is that the defendant conspired to commit two or more charged predicate acts. The four predicate acts alleged in the indictment correspond to four criminal cases that the indictment charged were corrupted by the defendant through his acceptance of, or agreement to accept, bribes. The defendant was charged with bribe receiving in connection with the Messina case (the first predicate act), the Botta case (the second predicate act), the Romano case (the third predicate act), and the Polisi case (the fourth predicate act).

 The government proved that in connection with the Romano and the Polisi cases, the defendant committed 24 separate crimes which are some of the predicate acts. Each was an independent count in the indictment. These counts fall into three categories: ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.