Powerful Ex-Senator Gets 5 Years in Tax Case

NEW YORK (AP) -

Brash former state senator Pedro Espada Jr., who ran a once-respected health-care network, was sentenced Friday to five years in prison for looting the taxpayer-subsidized clinics to pay for children’s pony rides and other extravagances.

U.S. District Judge Frederic Block immediately jailed Espada rather than let him report to prison, citing evidence that he defied a court order to stay away from jurors after his trial. The judge also ordered him to forfeit more than $368,000.

Espada, who has called the case a “witch hunt,” expressed no remorse at the sentencing in federal court in Brooklyn on embezzlement and tax fraud charges. He talked instead about Soundview Healthcare Network’s legacy of providing medical care to needy New Yorkers.

“What I created was not a piggy bank but a lifeline to the community,” he said. Soundview closed last year after more than 30 years.

Outside court, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch labeled Espada, 59, a “selfish man. A small man.”

The sentencing was the culmination of Espada’s dramatic fall from prominence. After growing up poor in Puerto Rico and the South Bronx, he earned a law degree, founded Soundview and launched a successful political career as a Democrat with a reputation as a bold manipulator of Albany’s power structure.

While still in the Senate in 2010, Espada was arrested on federal charges that he stole more than $500,000 to pay for dinners, vacations and pony rides at a granddaughter’s birthday party, letting Soundview’s clinics decline.