Former Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) was sentenced on Friday to eight months in prison and one year of supervised released in a Brooklyn federal court after pleading guilty to tax evasion. Apologizing in front of Judge Pamela Chen, Grimm pleaded for the judge to avoid prison; however Chen said that she was troubled by the tone of the apology and called it “somewhat belated.” Grimm pled guilty 7 months ago to the single felony count after being indicted in April 2014 on 21 counts surrounding a failing restaurant venture. Combined, those charges could have equated to over 20 years in prison. He pleaded not guilty to the original 21 count indictment. Grimm, who touted his straight and narrow image during his election campaign in 2010, was a former marine who served in Operation Desert Storm and a former FBI agent from 1995-2006. Despite the image he presented during his campaign, he is best known for a confrontation in January 2014, when NYI reporter Michael Scotto questioned him about the ongoing federal investigation into his tax dealings. Grimm was caught on video telling Scotto, “I’ll break you in half, like a boy.” He later apologized for the incident after it went viral. Grimm is scheduled to surrender on September, 10th.
The conviction and other charges of wrongdoing stem from Grimm’s ownership of Healthalicious, a Manhattan restaurant that he ran prior to leaving for Congress in 2011. An investigation into Grimm’s campaign financing led to the indictment, which accused him of hiding over $1 million in earnings and wages. Grimm admitted to state and federal tax authorities that the underreported the restaurant’s revenue, using the savings to pay employees off the books. In his impassioned plea, Grimm told Judge Chen that he was a poor businessman, who was “ashamed to fail.” Likely not helping the sincerity of his apology, Grimm had also told the court that paying employees under the table was a “harsh reality” of the restaurant business, asking to be treated “just like every other restaurant owner.” Chen said that Grimm lacked the “bravery to fail,” writing that,“Everyone falls from grace…Some people fall farther than others.” Chen also said, “Your moral compass, Mr. Grimm, needs some reorientation.” In addition, U.S. attorneys who were seeking a stiffer sentence also referenced the fact that Grimm lied under oath in a 2013 deposition for a civil suit brought by former Healthalicious employees. That case was eventually settled.
Despite the impending charges and the viral video, Grimm successfully defended his seat in his 2014 re-election. Although he originally refused to resign his position after the election, he eventually bowed to pressure from his colleagues to remove himself from office effective January 5th, 2015. Grimm represented the 13th and later the 11th Congressional districts of New York, which both include parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn. Some supporters believe that Grimm was singled out for being the only elected Republican to represent New York City in Congress. Republican Daniel Donovan was elected to replace Grimm in a special election conducted shortly after Grimm’s resignation. Former Representative and Staten Island borough president, Guy Molinari, was devastated by the outcome, saying “It’s a sad day for me to watch this young man who has so much promise and helped so many people to stand before a judge and be sentenced in a criminal trial.” In addition to the prison term, Grimm will also have to conduct 200 hours of community service and pay a restitution amount determined by an August hearing. Tax records estimate that Grimm owes roughly $185,000 in tax liabilities.
Forbes – Kelly Phillips Erb
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Wall Street Journal – Rebecca Davis O’Brien