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Ex-Puerto Rico senator sentenced to 5 years

Ex-Puerto Rico senator sentenced to 5 years

An influential former senator whose testimony recently helped convict a former colleague and has bolstered federal investigations against other high-ranking politicians was sentenced on Tuesday to five years in prison after having pleaded guilty to corruption charges.
Jorge de Castro Font, 47, remained stoic as the judge read the sentence, which includes three years of supervised release.
De Castro's sentencing had been repeatedly delayed as he continued to cooperate with federal prosecutors in other corruption cases, and his sentence could be further reduced if he keeps cooperating. Prosecutors had sought a nine-year sentence.
The former senator delivered an eloquent 15-minute speech before he was sentenced, recalling how he and other politicians were offered trips to Miami and the Dominican Republic and access to private boats and planes during fundraising campaigns.
"Basically, we prostituted ourselves," he said. "It made us betray what our parents taught us, and we started using it for our personal things."
De Castro also reminded the judge several times of his help in other corruption cases after pleading guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence.
"I have done nothing else since that day your honor but help the government of the United States," he said. "I know what I did was wrong, and I am sorry. But like any witness...what is fair is fair. I worked and I made an effort."
On Tuesday, Judge Francisco Besosa closed the courtroom for several hours while De Castro testified again about his cooperation in several investigations that Besosa said still might be active.
The sentencing comes more than two years after de Castro pleaded guilty after prosecutors agreed to drop 10 of the more than 30 charges he faced for allegedly trading political favors for cash and services.
"Your elocution today has demonstrated sincere repentance," Besosa said before reading the sentence.
Defense attorney Hector Guzman praised the reduced sentence but disagreed with it overall.
"I'm satisfied if everybody walks out in every case I have," he said.
De Castro was accused of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for promises to block or advance certain bills as chair of the powerful rules committee, and to damage the interests of business owners if they refused to pay. A federal grand jury indictment alleged that he used the money to pay for expenses including credit card bills, home utilities and clothing. It also alleged that he asked a person with business before the Senate to pay half his sister's salary at an advertising firm.
"He got caught up with the power and control that the position provided him," prosecutor Timothy Henwood said.
In closing arguments, Guzman said de Castro is destitute and reminded the judge that his client tried to commit suicide.
In August 2008, the FBI raided the former senator's home and office and seized evidence. Three months later, they arrested him.
At the time, de Castro was the spokesman for the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, and he had been seeking re-election for a sixth term.
He still faces a criminal trial at the local level for similar charges.
The case against de Castro was one of several federal corruption probes in recent years targeting high-profile politicians.


Updated : 2021-05-08 04:30 GMT+08:00