|David Samson, center, leaves court today after his sentencing|
Facing two years in prison for the shakedown of United Airlines in a bizarre scheme to get a more convenient direct flight to his South Carolina getaway home, former Port Authority chairman David Samson found a soft landing Monday.
U.S. District Judge Jose Linares stunned federal prosecutors by sentencing Samson to a year of home confinement, four years of probation and 3,600 hours of community service in his admitted strong-arming of the airline.
The 77-year-old former New Jersey attorney general will also be required to pay a $100,000 fine and wear a location-monitoring device.
"I did something wrong. I violated the law. I deeply regret it. I am trying to live my life to the highest moral standards," Samson said in court, apologizing to his family his friends and the public. "I violated the law. I deeply regret it."
Linares did not minimize Samson's guilt.
"This crime was ridiculous. It was a complete abuse of power. It was corruption that is not to be tolerated," said the judge.
But at the same time, he said he took into account Samson's lifetime of public service and good deeds, his age and poor health, as well as more than 40 letters of support from friends, colleagues, family members and public officials --including former Gov. James McGreevey, three former state attorneys general and a retired federal judge.
The judge also cited the punitive nature of Samson losing his law license and seeing his name stripped from the law firm he founded. He said the loss of reputation was not insubstantial.
"He was someone who knew the law and knew the consequences of what he was doing," Linares told the court. "But we don't look at one factor and ignore all the others."
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, whose office had urged the judge to impose a 24-month sentence, noted the incongruity of a man who pleaded guilty to a scheme that allowed him to get home quicker to his country estate, and then being sentenced to spend a year in that very house.
"It is a less severe sanction than we wanted," Fishman remarked following the sentencing in federal court in Newark.
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