Paul Adler, a former chairman of the Rockland County Democratic Party and a Hillary Rodham Clinton fund-raiser, was sentenced Wednesday to 19 months in prison for tax evasion and mail fraud.
"Mr. Adler failed to do an honest, principled job" as party leader, said federal Judge Charles Brieant, and his crime will discourage "idealistic men and women from going into local politics."
Federal guidelines called for a sentence of 18 to 24 months but Adler and his lawyer, Murray Richman, pleaded with Brieant to consider Adler's remorse, his charitable work, the scores of letters written for him, his ailing mother and his wife and five young children.
"Consider not exacting harm on these innocent people because of my stupid acts," Adler said in a tearful address to the judge. "The thought that I would be adversely affecting their futures ... is what keeps me up nights."
Relatives in the gallery wept through his speech.
Adler, 43, of New City, was party chairman from 1996 until his arrest in 2000. He was a fund-raiser for Clinton's successful Senate race and has been a guest at the Clinton White House.
A real estate agent, he admitted last year that he contacted a Clarkstown Planning Board member and offered to use political contacts to get him a government job. In exchange, he wanted approval for a proposed subdivision.
Adler also admitted understating his income for 1996 and 1997 by more than $200,000.
Adler said he and his wife had worked hard to create a "proper moral compass" for their children but because of his crimes, "I've lost the right to lead by example."
He said that when his eighth-grade daughter won two citizenship awards at her graduation, "I was so honored but, Your Honor, I wanted to crawl under the chair."
Adler was also fined $4,000. He is to begin his sentence Sept. 18. He would not comment on the length of his sentence.