A beleageured-looking Clarence Norman Jr., once Brooklyn’s most powerful Democratic leader, was sentenced today to a term of 2 to 6 years for two separate convictions stemming from campaign abuses.
The sentence means the former political boss must serve at least 2 years in prison before he can be considered eligible for parole. He still faces trial on two more indictments, slated to start in March, for allegedly forcing judicial candidates to hire cronies for their campaigns.
Norman was immediately taken into custody but was held at the Brooklyn Supreme Court on Jay Street to await the outcome of a hearing before appellate court this afternoon where his attorney, Edward Rappaport, said he will ask that Norman be released on bail pending appeal.
In sentencing the former 11-term assemblyman from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Judge Martin Marcus slammed Norman as “devious and manipulative,” and said the ex-legislative leader had “betrayed those who admire and support him.”
Marcus spoke moments after a penitent Norman, wearing a dark suit, a silver-colored tie, and a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles, stood to read a statement in which he said he took “full responsibility” for his actions. Saying he had “exercised poor judgment” in his affairs, the ex-legislator said he should have “should have let well enough alone,” and never asked a lobbyist to help pay for some of his 2000 campaign expenses – payments that led to his first conviction for receiving improper contributions.
Regarding his second conviction for depositing a $5,000 campaign reimbursement check into his personal account, Norman said, “If I had the opportunity, I would turn back the hands of time.”
Turning towards the gallery, where his wife, father, mother, and dozens of former constituents were seated, Norman said he wanted to “aplogize for disrupting their lives.” He said the “greatest apology” he owed was to “the people of the 43rd Assembly District,” who he said had suffered from the loss of the seniority and status he once held as their representative.
“I am sorry I let down my constituents, I hope they’ll forgive me,” he said.
Rappaport, himself a former Supreme Court judge, had asked that his client receive a sentence of “many hours” of community service, in lieu of jail time. He pointed out out that Norman had no prior convictions, and that he may be the only person in the state ever convicted of the campaign abuse charges.
Brooklyn assistant District Attorney Michael Vecchione, who, along with assistants Kevin Richardson and Monique Farrell, won the convictions against Norman, had asked Marcus to sentence Norman to 5 – 15 years.
“Clarence Norman travelled the road from being a favorite son of Brooklyn to being a smarmy, dishonest politician,” Vecchione told Marcus. “He let down and failed the hardworking citizens of the 43rd Assembly District who had placed their trust in him 11 separate times by electing him. He has quite simply made a mockery of that trust.”
Vecchione had asked in a letter to the judge that the court take into consideration in his sentencing decision what he said was Norman’s refusal to cooperate in his office’s ongoing investigation of judicial corruption in the borough. In court this morning, Vecchione described Norman as “the very heart” of the corruption probe. But Rappaport argued strenuously that the wording should be stricken from the record, and Marcus agreed, saying he would not punish Norman for failing to cooperate.
Marcus was imported from the Bronx by court administrators specifically to handle the Norman cases because of the former Democratic county leader’s longtime key role in the naming of judges in the borough.
Outside the court, Vecchione declined to criticize the sentence imposed. “I have great respect for Judge Marcus,” he said.