Former Jail Guard Union Chief Wins Early Release From Bribery Sentence

Norman Seabrook, the former longtime leader of the New York City correction officers’ union who in 2019 was sentenced to nearly five years in prison for taking a bribe, was granted release on Friday by a Manhattan judge who cited an unjust disparity between his sentence and that of the businessman who had paid him off.

The judge, Alvin K. Hellerstein of Federal District Court, cited “extraordinary and compelling circumstances” in ordering Mr. Seabrook, 63, released from the West Virginia prison where he has served 21 months of his sentence. The judge said he would delay the decision for 10 days to allow prosecutors to decide whether they wanted to appeal.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York said Friday that the office had no comment on the ruling.

The government had opposed Mr. Seabrook’s early release, arguing that his 58-month sentence reflected the gravity of his crime. “Seabrook betrayed the rank-and-file workers he represented once he saw an opportunity to get paid,” the U.S. attorney’s office had argued in court papers.

At Mr. Seabrook’s trial, evidence showed he had steered $20 million from the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association to a risky hedge fund, Platinum Partners, in return for a kickback potentially worth more than $100,000.

In the end, the government said, Mr. Seabrook was delivered $60,000 in cash stuffed inside a designer bag purchased at his favorite luxury goods store, Salvatore Ferragamo.

“It’s time Norman Seabrook got paid,” Mr. Seabrook had told a real estate developer, Jona S. Rechnitz, who had arranged for the payoff, according to Mr. Rechnitz’s testimony at the trial. Mr. Rechnitz had pleaded guilty and testified as a cooperating government witness.

The $20 million was “substantially the entirety of the pension fund,” Judge Hellerstein noted in his ruling, adding that the union ultimately lost $19 million of its $20 million investment.

A spokesman for the union had no immediate comment on the order granting Mr. Seabrook his release.

Judge Hellerstein, before imposing the original 58-month sentence, said Mr. Seabrook “was blinded by his own sense of his own importance, by his desire to benefit himself after benefiting others for so long.”

Mr. Seabrook’s lawyer, Roger B. Adler, said Friday that he was “deeply gratified and appreciative of Judge Hellerstein’s sensitivity and compassion for a senior citizen defendant who has served a substantial portion of his sentence.”

Mr. Seabrook has been serving his sentence at a minimum-security satellite camp of the Federal Correctional Institution Beckley in Beaver, W. Va.

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