First time long time 2: Here is exactly what Craig Carton heard from the Judge today

“Colleen from New York, first time, long time.

I have never forgotten the look of shock that crossed your face when I revealed that I was a listener; you clearly weren’t expecting it. But I am a long-time listener, generally 8:30 to 9:15 while I’m driving in. In fact, I was listening the morning you called in sick to work. I listened as it all unfolded in real time.

The fact that I listened to the show regularly means that before the clerk wheeled this case out to me at random I knew a lot about you. I knew you were extremely knowledgeable about your craft, about the business of sports and communication. I knew you could be fun to listen to. I also knew you could be a jerk. Just FYI, there are women who like to watch and listen to sports and talk about sports, and things can get a little raunchy on sports radio, and there were times when I had to change the channel because it was a little too locker room talky, but for the most part it was a good show, an insightful show, and I enjoyed it — I still do.

I knew that you reveled in celebrity in the sports world; that came across even over the radio. You loved being famous, and you loved hanging with the famous, and having and providing others with access to the famous. And I don’t fault you for that. I think most of us would feel exactly the same way if we had an entree into that glittering world.

I knew that you had Tourette’s and that you had kids with Tourette’s, and that you had started a foundation to help kids with Tourette’s, and you ran a camp for kids with Tourette’s, and that you threw yourself into that work for your kids and for those kids.

I have to tell you the first thought that I had when the case got wheeled out to me was, oh, my God, I hope he didn’t loot the foundation; I home he didn’t touch the money in the foundation. Because I’ve had a lot of cases like yours, different defendants, similar facts, and I know when you’re desperate to find money to pay somebody off, nothing is off limits. And I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I found out that that was not an element in this case.

I knew about all the other charities that you supported, all the celebrity baseball and hockey and basketball games in which you played, all the air time that you gave to athletes so that they could talk up their charitable causes, all the events that you attended and that you promoted, events that raised money or literally hundreds, probably thousands of worthy enterprises over the ten years that you were heard on WFAN. I knew, in other words, that you had put your celebrity to good use and that a lot of people benefited from that; and I liked you for that.

When I read the indictment in this case, and your public statements about it, at the beginning I knew immediately something else. If I hadn’t known it before, I would know it today because you just said it; it just came out of your mouth.

I knew that if the allegations against you were true — as they proved to be — you probably thought you weren’t doing anything criminal even though you obtained money from other people by deceit. That’s your word, the word you used in the letter that you sent me, you took money by deceit. And you think that because you were always sure that you would find a way to pay it back, so no one would be hurt and no one would be the wiser.

You were sure that you could make it all work out. I knew that because I have handled a lot of cases like yours, and everyone who does what you did thinks and hopes that it will all work out in the end. You steal money, and you lie in order to get your hands on it, but you do it with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, as you have learned, under the law good intentions don’t excuse lies and deceit and theft, crimes that were facilitated by the very things I’ve identified about you:

That you were a celebrity, that you had ties to other famous people, that you could provide people with a connection to the otherwise unattainable world of big time sports, and that you had an admittedly deserved reputation for good works, which made folks who probably should have known better more trusting than they otherwise might have been.

And I’ve also learned from presiding over cases like yours that when you do the kinds of stuff that you and Meli and Wright were doing, the money always runs out at some point, and only then do you realize that the road to your personal hell was paved — truly paved with your good intentions.

Craig Carton, you have indeed descended into a hell of your own making. Everything you spent a lifetime of building up is gone. Your marriage is over. Your family is decimated. Your kids are terrified. Your career is in tatters. Your reputation is lost. You’re expose as a fraudster, a criminal, a felon. You’ve lost everything worth having: Career, respect, emotional and financial security for your family. And a lot of people who have grudges against you, whether they’re justified or not, are now coming out of the woodwork to take their potshots. It’s pretty horrible, and you did it to yourself.

I see that your new video is called “The Reckoning”. There will be many reckonings to come out of your behavior — reckonings with family, friends, employers and creditors. Today comes the legal reckoning. Taking all relevant factors into account, the United States Sentencing Commission advises that I should send you to jail for between 70 and 87 months, six or seven years. The government says you deserve every day of that and urges me to impose a guidelines sentence. Mr. Gottlieb and Mr. Janey presented volumes of evidence and argument for why you should serve far less.
Now, it’s understandable that the presentation that the defense has made on your behalf — including the long letter that Mr. Gottlieb wrote to me and the amazing speech that Mr. Janey just delivered, and even the letter that you wrote me — it’s understandable that they should be heavy on the factors that you argue entitle you to a break.

The government’s not wrong when it says they’re a little light on the factors that brought you here today. The government’s letter brief by contrast focuses on those facts, and they are ugly facts. The government’s recounting in its sentencing memorandum of what you did accords with the evidence that the jury and that I found to be convincing, found in fact to be overwhelming. So, I accept and I adopt as my findings the government’s recital of the facts of this case, which can be found in its sentencing memo and in the probation report, because that recital accurately and unapologetically explains what you did to turn yourself from a highly respected media star and philanthropist into a criminal.

Now, what people don’t understand often about these sentencing guidelines is that what triggers a particular person’s guidelines is the amount of the loss that was caused before your crime was detected, which for our purposes we’re going to set at the day that you called in sick for work, and that amount is, I don’t know, something like $5.1 or $5.2 million.

And some of that money has subsequently been repaid; a little more has been repaid in recent weeks. And that’s a good thing, and part of your sentence will be to repay the rest of it. And you know that. But the loss amount also drives the calculation of what your prison sentence should be, and like many of my colleagues I believe that the guidelines as we call them, because they’re driven by loss amount are sometimes unduly harsh, especially when there is some double counting going on, as there is in your case, some double counting, two double extra counting points for the same loss.

Now, I don’t imagine that your victims would feel that the guideline sentence was on the harsh side, and I’ve gotten a few letters from people who have nothing to do with the case who wouldn’t feel that way, but I know enough about prison to know that 70 to 87 months is a very, very long time. So I’m not unreceptive to the argument made by Mr. Gottlieb and Mr. Janey who ask that I vary your sentence from the guideline level. That said, I’m receptive only to a few aspects of the argument.

Your lawyers offer several arguments in mitigation. They cite your position as the head of a large family, one that includes children who suffer from an illness. They call my attention to all the good works that you’ve done in the past and to the good work that you hope to do in the future — a different kind of good work, trying to convince people that gambling can be a bad thing, a thing that in your case was destructively addictive. I happen to have had The Post called to my attention this morning, so I read Phil Mushnick’s column, and I see that you’ve already made a video, which I look forward to seeing, exposing the downside of gambling, and the lawyers ask that I especially consider your gambling addiction in mitigation of your crimes.

Where your family is concerned, I want you to know — and this is true in every case — I feel terrible for your wife and for your children and for your parents. They’re going to suffer because of what you — the person who loved them the most and who was responsible for them and their comfort and their safety — chose to do. But when you crossed a line between gambling, or asking people for loans to help you gamble, and altering e-mails and redirecting money that was solicited from business investments to your personal bank account, and the things that you did that were criminal, you know, you should have thought of them. Everybody’s family is collateral damage, and I don’t consider your family responsibilities to be a mitigating factor. What I consider them to be is a tragedy.

Now, I have no doubt that this entire escapade resulted from an addiction to gambling that was deep and powerful, but I’m not going to mitigate your sentence because of your gambling addiction. I certainly can’t do a downward departure, because the guidelines themselves are clear. I mean I could, but I’m not going to. Addiction is not to be used as a grounds for departing downwardly from the guidelines, but I happen to agree with the government that I shouldn’t impose a variance sentence for that reason either, and that’s because gambling may be why you did what you did, but a gambling addiction is not an excuse for stealing from people or for defrauding people.

You may have felt under extraordinary pressure to repay your gambling debts and your other business debts, but in our society one is not free to relieve that pressure by picking someone else’s pockets. One can declare bankruptcy. One can do other things that you might have found to be publicly humiliating, but one does not need to steal other people’s money.

Everyone has a motive for committing a crime. There is always a reason. And as my colleague Judge Kaplan noted many years ago — and I’ve had occasion to quote him from time to time — many of those motives arise out of behaviors that society recognizes as compulsive or addictive. I number in the thousands the drug addicts who have passed through this court convicted of dealing in drugs which they did to support their own habit, their own addiction, or convicted of stealing money to pay for a habit to support an addiction, and many of those crimes arise out of a defendant’s sense of desperation. Dozens upon dozens of rudderless young inner-city men join gangs because they provide the identity, the structure, the companionship, even the family that those people lack. There is always a reason, and it’s often a compulsive or an addictive or a desperate reason.

The fact that your motive was to scratch an itch to make bets — whatever the source of that itch — generates no more sympathy in me than does the fact of somebody else’s motive was to scratch an itch to own a Ferrari.

Using someone else’s money for your purposes without that person’s permission is in my book a reprehensible thing to do, and doing it in the manner that you did — repeatedly lying to induce people to part with their money, stringing folks along, giving them false accountings of what they thought were investments — you did all that. And if it sounds a little bit like what a guy named Madoff did, it’s because it is the same thing. He just did it for a lot longer and apparently was a lot better at it. I am distressed to learn about what happened to you as a child. I’m not a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, or a clinician, and I suppose it is entirely possible that that was something that you had buried and that it resurrected itself from Sandusky or something else, and that it started you down the road to perdition. But the government is not wrong. Mr. Janey is horrified by what the government said on page 18 of its brief, but I was not horrified by what the government said on page 18of its brief. You have done an amazing — amazing job of building a life for yourself, a successful life for yourself, a successful family life for yourself, a successful career for yourself in the 40 years since that happened, and while those actions may have — I’ll even accept that they did — contribute to your compulsive gambling, no psychologist has opined that they drove you to commit fraud. It explains a lot but it doesn’t excuse anything.

OK. That said, I don’t think it’s necessary to sentence you to 70 months in a federal penitentiary in order to give you a sentence that is sufficient but not greater than necessary to effectuate the goals of the sentencing statute. I’m not going to keep you in suspense. I’m going to follow the recommendation of the probation department. I’m going to sentence you to 42 months in prison; together with a maximum term of three years’ supervised release; with special conditions of participation in Gamblers Anonymous, mental health counseling and extensive community service.

So, why do I think that an incarcerative sentence is necessary here? Well, as Mr. Janey reminded me, I’ve said on more than one occasion that I do sentencing the old fashioned way. In the end, punishment is the principal purpose of sentencing. I think that punishment is a perfectly legitimate goal of sentencing in a society that is held together by a mutual compact to abide by the law. You broke the compact, so you have to take a time-out from society. And because you broke the compact in a serious way, that time-out needs to reflect the seriousness of what you did.

If you had gone into a bank and robbed it of several million dollars, not only would no one blink if you got sentenced to four years, but everyone would expect that you would get sentenced to four years or even more. Well, you did the same thing. Taking money from the people you took it from is just as serious in my estimation as going to a Citibank branch and taking it out of the vault.

Another role of sentencing is to set an example for other people who might be tempted to do what you did. In your case the very fact that you are famous means that people will hear about this; they will hear that you are being sent to a federal correctional facility because of what you did, and not just for a few months or for a year but for three and a half, a real long time-out. And maybe — just maybe — if they’re tempted to do something similar, to rob Peter to pay Paul, they will think twice about it. Maybe they will decide that the risks aren’t worth it. That’s the message that it’s important to send. It’s a message that promotes respect for the law and to help the community understand that everyone — no matter his background, or his family circumstances, or his success in life — has to pay when he or she commits a crime.

Yet another goal of sentencing is to deter further criminal conduct. Now, there are plenty of studies suggesting that imprisonment is not needed as a deterrent by people like you, people who are not violent, people from whom society does not need to be protected, people for whom shame and mortification — which are emotions that I know you feel — imposes a punishment that never ends. Maybe so.

But I know that if I had a gambling problem, a compulsion, and I had to spend 42 months in jail because I stole a lot of money to support that habit — not because I gambled but because I stole a lot of money to support that habit — it would make a tremendous impression on me. It might even convince me that the game was not worth the candle. You are a recovering addict, and you need to understand and have it reinforced that the game is not worth the candle.

So, why am I not going to sentence you to a full guideline sentence as the government requests? Several reasons:

One is that my probation department assessed you and decided that 70 months was excessive, and I have tremendous respect for those professionals and their assessments. They see it all, and they are in an excellent position to guide me.

One is an argument that Mr. Janey made about proportionality. Mr. Janey and I see alike about proportionality. We know that the proportionality issue is supposed to compare people across the entire nation whose numbers are the same, but we also know, Mr. Janey and I, that proportionality where it really counts is relative culpability within a single offense. And I would not sentence you to the amount of time that Mr. Meli got, and I need to sentence you to more time than Mr. Wright got.

The third reason is that you made great strides toward rehabilitation, and I believe those to be sincere.

And the fourth is that you’ve done a lot of good in this world, far more than most people have, and that weighs heavily on your side of the ledger. Now, I recognize that you had a very special platform for doing good, one that’s not available to all of us, but you took advantage of that platform to help an awful lot of people in an awful lot of ways, and I am going to give you credit for that.

Furthermore, I happen to think that you can do considerable good in the future, especially if you keep your promise that you’re going to work to make the public aware of the real dangers of addictive gambling.

I want to thank the people from GA who are here today and who wrote on Mr. Carton’s behalf. I won’t name you; I will keep you anonymous. But they believe that your repentance is sincere, and I think they’re probably the best judges of that.

It is admirable that you’re working with enterprises like the National Council on Gambling to try to parlay your celebrity into a forum that will let people know that gambling can ruin your life. I gather that the video that I read about this morning is a first step toward that, and I applaud you for that, and in fact I’m going to help, because not only am I shortening your sentence so that you will get out and back into the world sooner, but I’m going to require that you perform 150 hours of community service as one of the conditions of your supervised release. That’s because I think you can do a lot more good by going around our communities and speaking out against the very real dangers of gambling than you can by sitting around for the extra year or two in prison. It is because I, a long-time listener, know what you’re capable of, and we’re going to get you back out where you can find yourself a pulpit from which to shout out a warning — not that silly you got a problem, call 1-800 gambler warning — which you yourself told me in your letter was woefully inadequate – your words — but a real warning about gambling as the road to perdition, which it is for some people, and which it certainly
has been for you.

ow, whether that pulpit will be on sports radio is up to the folks who run sports radio. I don’t run sports radio. I do have a letter from one of the station managers, he says he talked to you about how your eventual return could be used to alert people to the dangers of compulsive gambling, and maybe some day I will turn on WFAN and there you will be again. But I haven’t stopped listening to sports radio, and I know that it has a big new advertiser, and that is legalized gambling. Two, three, four ads for sports betting run in every half hour segment, ads that tout the wonders of placing the bet, betting on the games, doubling your bet during the games, changing your bet at half time, getting free credit against your next bet if you lose — I haven’t figured out how that one works yet — and it troubles me, because the message in those ads is antithetical to the message you deliver in your new video and the message you’re going to have to deliver as part of your community service.

On the radio these sports betting ads are read by the talent, they’re read by people like you. In his column this morning Mr. Mushnick noted with some irony that Boomer Esiason read an ad for sports betting on the air within minutes of announcing that you had been arrested.

If none of this had happened — if none of this had happened and you were still on the air — you would probably be reading those very ads with their — to quote you – woefully inadequate warning at the end. Will sports radio give you a platform to undercut its biggest new source of advertising income? It’s not for me to decide. I think there might be some magical thinking going on here.

If sports radio is no longer your platform, you’re going to have to find a new platform from which to deliver your new message. But I happen to think that you’re capable of doing that.”

[NY Post]

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