Russell Harding's Vanity Fair

'Voice' Trail Led to Charges

City and federal agents arrested Harding at his East 62nd Street home at a little after seven that morning. Harding spent the rest of the morning and much of the afternoon in holding pens at U.S. District Court. At a little after 4 p.m., he emerged through a side door into the courtroom of Judge Lewis Kaplan. Harding had been able to don a dark suit before the agents took him away, but there had been no time to shave, and he wore a heavy weekend's worth of beard and a hangdog expression as he took a seat alongside his lawyer, Gerald Shargel. Behind him, his father, Raymond, sat in the second row, courteously declining all comment to the reporters who besieged him.

After a not-guilty plea was entered into the record, defense and prosecution attorneys told the court that they had agreed on a bail package consisting of $500,000 in bonds co-signed by Harding's father and mother (who was away on a trip and blissfully spared the sight of her son in the dock). There was also an agreement that Harding, 38, would continue to see his own therapist and be evaluated by an outside doctor. In an indication of the family's tense situation, it was made a condition of bail that Russell Harding be in "daily telephone contact with his father."

After the hearings, lawyer Shargel criticized the government as "somewhat brutish" for having arrested his client at home, instead of allowing him to surrender. "He's known for months that this day would come," Shargel said. But some officials familiar with the case said that the decision not to give Harding the usual prior notice accorded white collar defendants was motivated less by fear that he might flee than by concern for his mental state and worry that he might do harm to himself once he knew indictment was certain.

Called to account: Russell Harding leaves Federal Court Monday.
photo: Keith Bedford
Called to account: Russell Harding leaves Federal Court Monday.


More Tom Robbins Stories on Russell Harding:

"The Lush Life of a Rudy Appointee: How a Politically Tied Aide Spent $250,000 on Food, Fun, and Travel"

"More Lush Life of a Rudy Appointee"

"Party Harding"

"Harding's Hustle: Bonuses, Bargains, and Strip Clubs at the Housing Development Corporation"

"Low-Class Act: Russell Harding on Blacks, the Poor, and the Clintons"

"Bonus Baby: A Hefty Something Extra in Russell Harding's Last Paycheck"

"The Private Lives of Russell Harding"

"Where Are the Whistle-Blowers?"

"Harding's Conflict of Interest: After Pledging to Steer Clear of Dad's Law Firm, Son Aided a Client"

"Scandal Repair: As Harding Probe Continues, Cleanup Costs Grow"

Shargel, however, said his client was in "strong mental health" and fully competent to stand trial. At one point several weeks ago, law enforcement officials were hopeful that a deal would be struck in which Harding would have agreed to plead guilty and serve a substantial prison term. That plan collapsed, however. And as one watched Harding trailing behind Shargel into a welter of TV cameras on Worth Street outside the federal court on Monday, the suspicion lingered that, despite his troubles, he didn't mind the cameras' steady attention.

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