By Thomas Tracy
With two criminal trials still ahead of him, embattled former Assemblymember Clarence Norman, Jr., was sentenced to two to six years Wednesday and ordered to a holding cell. Standing tall in the courtroom before Judge Martin Marcus, Norman said that he “accepted full responsibility for the situation that I have unquestionably put myself in.” “I certainly acknowledge that I’m here today in this situation because I have exercised poor judgment,” he told the judge. “Never, never, ever did I deliberately or consciously seek to break the law or circumvent the law.” Last September, Norman was found guilty for violating election law, by accepting campaign contributions far beyond the legal limit from an upstate lobbyist. In December, he was found guilty for pocketing a $5,000 check that was meant to his 2001 campaign. With the first conviction, Norman lost his Assembly seat, his lofty position as chair of the Kings County Democratic Party and license to practice law. But, despite all of that, Norman said that the ones who truly lost out was the men and women of the 43rd Assembly District, which he had served since 1984. “I’m sorry that I have really let down my constituents, the people who for 23 years placed their trust and confidence in me, and I certainly hope they will indeed forgive me,” Norman said during the sentencing hearing following his attorney Ed Rappaport, who asked the judge for “lots of hours” of community service instead of a jail sentence. Before passing sentence, Judge Marcus described Norman as a “devious and manipulative man” who “betrayed those who admire and support him.” Assistant District Attorney Michael Vecchione asked Marcus to sentence Norman to 5 – 15 years. “Clarence Norman travelled the road from being a favorite son of Brooklyn to being a smarmy, dishonest politician,” said Vecchione, according to published reports. “He let down and failed the hardworking citizens of the 43rd Assembly District who had placed their trust in him 11 separate times by electing him. He has quite simply made a mockery of that trust.” Following the sentencing, Rappaport asked Marcus to keep Norman in the courtroom while he filed his appeals in the hopes that the fallen Assemblyman stay out on bail pending the outcome of those appeals. Marcus turned a deaf ear to Norman’s plea and remanded him to a holding cell in the court house. By Wednesday night, Norman was out again, on $110,000 bail. It was unclear as of press time if Norman will remain free as his appeals work their way through the court system. While the scene in court appeared somber, things appeared almost festive in a “going away party” for Norman on Monday evening in the Crown Gardens Community Room. The event was also a fundraiser for the so-called “Trust for Justice,” which helped pay for Norman’s legal defense. According to the New York Press story written by Azi Paybarah, Norman said that he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. “With all of the support in this room, I wish I had 12 of you on my jury,” he told the crowd. “How many people can be convicted on two felony counts and have the kind of support that I do in this room?” Norman also said that he had no bad feelings toward Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes. “Why should I hate the devil?” he asked those gathered. “The devil does what the devil was created to do.” Norman has two more trials ahead of him The two other indictments against Norman include charges he defrauded Albany by filing travel expense requests already paid for by the Kings County Democratic Party and coercion charges which allege that Norman and Kings County Democratic Party Executive Director Jeff Feldman forced judicial candidates to use costly vendors of their own choosing if the candidates wanted continued party support. Both cases are expected to begin in March. Rappaport is currently seeking to have the charges quashed in upper courts.