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Courts - Canada

Judge who fixed divorce cases sent to prison

12:26 p.m. EDT, June 6, 2007

Story Highlights
• Former Brooklyn state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Garson sentenced to prison
• Garson fixed divorce cases in exchange for gifts
• Gifts included cigars, cash
• Hidden camera in chambers recorded bribes

An ex-judge who accepted expensive gifts in exchange for helping fix divorce cases and a former state lawmaker convicted in a scheme to shake down a judicial candidate were sentenced to prison Tuesday.

Former Brooklyn state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Garson, 74, was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison. Garson, 74, wept as he asked for leniency, claiming the cigars, cash and other gifts never influenced his decisions. But he also admitted that when he saw hidden-camera videos of his shady dealings in chambers, "I was appalled, embarrassed and ashamed of my demeanor."

Garson was convicted of receiving bribes and accepting rewards for official misconduct but acquitted on four lesser counts. The sentencing judge had no sympathy for him. "You abdicated your own moral fiber," Justice Jeffrey Berry said before imposing the sentence. "What you brought upon yourself is terrible."

Earlier in the day, former state assemblyman Clarence Norman Jr. surrendered in the same Brooklyn courtroom to begin serving a two-to-six-year term. The Garson case arose from a broader investigation into allegations that civil judgeships were being bought and sold for up to $50,000.Hard evidence of such brokering never materialized, but the scandal did bring down Norman, the longtime head of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, and resulted in convictions of courthouse staff.

Though already sentenced, Norman had been free on bail pending his appeal on convictions for grand larceny and other charges. A civil court candidate testified at Norman's trial earlier this year that Norman threatened to pull his party's support in 2002 unless she paid his favored consultant thousands of dollars. Beforehand, a jovial Norman had told reporters, "The Lord is with me. My family's with me. I have my health."

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