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In a strong, steady voice, Mr. Pirro said: ''I clearly did not fulfill my responsibilities to make a diligent enough effort to disclose my tax returns. To my wife, Jeanine, I would like to publicly apologize for the difficulties which I have imposed upon her in carrying out her professional aspirations, as well as tarnishing her stellar record.''
Under the original federal sentencing guidelines, Mr. Pirro could have faced 37 to 46 months in prison. But by agreement with prosecutors, he received a lower sentence because he had waived his right to appeal, partly because of what he said were the long odds of winning, and partly, according to friends, because of the case's financial and emotional toll on his family.
Mr. Pirro is now expected to surrender to federal authorities on Jan. 9. He is expected to serve his sentence at the minimum-security federal prison camp at Eglin Air Force Base in Eglin, Fla., which has a tennis court and a secluded bay inlet for sunbathing. If he behaves well, he could possibly be released in two years or less. He had requested that prison because his family has a vacation home in Florida.
With Mr. Pirro poised to exchange his pinstriped suits for prison garb, most of the headlines with the name Pirro will no doubt swirl around the personal, financial and political fortunes of his wife. Today, after the sentencing, Mrs. Pirro, who noted that she and her husband just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, made a few comments to reporters.
''This has been a terrible ordeal for my family, my children,'' said Mrs. Pirro, squinting in the face of a bright midday sun.
Then, asked whether she would remain district attorney, or opt, as some friends have urged, for a more lucrative job in private practice, now that her family will depend more on her government salary, she said, ''It's a job that I love, and I intend to stay district attorney.'' She is up for re-election in 2001.
During the five-week trial, government prosecutors referred to thousands of pages of tax returns, invoices and canceled checks in presenting their portrait of Albert Pirro as a wealthy man who decided to cheat on his taxes to become wealthier. And in so doing, they uncorked intimate details about the Pirros' private lives and spending habits on airplane tickets, country club outings, fine art, classic cars and more.
Albert Pirro's legal team, in turn, argued that Mr. Pirro was too busy and aloof a businessman to keep tabs on mundane bookkeeping details, and that his high-ticket expenses were routine for someone who counts Gov. George E. Pataki and Donald J. Trump as friends. Besides, Mr. Pirro's lawyers noted, Mr. Pirro had repaid about $1 million in back taxes.
Throughout the trial, Mrs. Pirro was a frequent visitor to the courtroom in United States District Court for the Southern District, occupying a front-row gallery seat. And though she was not charged with any wrongdoing, she was constantly subjected to insinuations that she should have known more. Indeed, it was easy, sometimes, to forget that Mr. Pirro's younger brother and accountant, Anthony G. Pirro, was also on trial on similar charges.
Neither Pirro brother testified. The defense called no witnesses at all, confident that the government failed to meet its burden of proof. But the defense guessed wrong: on June 22, a jury convicted Albert Pirro on all 34 counts, and Anthony Pirro on 23 out of 33.
Anthony Pirro was sentenced today to 37 months, the lowest level possible, but plans to appeal, said his lawyer, Roger L. Stavis. A prior conviction for cocaine possession was a factor in the longer sentence.
In meting out his sentence today, Judge Parker, who also ordered Albert Pirro to pay $62,446 in lawyers' fees, said that he was impressed by how Albert Pirro had managed to overcome humble origins to succeed in life, and had won over so many people of high stations and low with his generosity. If anything, he almost sounded disappointed in Mr. Pirro, noting that of all the letters that were submitted to the court in defense of his character, not one talked about the trappings of wealth.
''You somehow lost your bearings and you lost your perspective, and I sense that's what led you to cheat on your taxes,'' Judge Parker said. ''The things that you worked so hard to buy were the things that your friends really didn't care about.''Continue reading the main story