By RIK STEVENS | AP
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Even after a year in jail, former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi says arrogance and a sense of entitlement born of rubbing elbows with billionaires and world leaders kept him from admitting it was wrong to take gifts and campaign contributions in return for access to the state's massive and lucrative pension fund.
A visit from his three adult children shortly after he was denied parole the first time last year finally changed his mind.
"They are loving, they are loyal, supported me, stood by me all the way through this and then beat me up, verbally beat me up, because I was in denial about what really occurred," he told a parole board last week, according to a transcript released Tuesday.
"When you sit in prison, you have a lot of time to think, analyze different elements of this crime, some of which I tried to minimize because I could make the case maybe this was not a crime, this was not so severe and so on," he told the panel gathered at Mid-State Correctional Facility in Marcy. "Now that was the process where I reached some conclusion that I would like to share with you ... This is what my kids drew out of me."
Hevesi was granted parole last week after spending 19 months in prison for accepting gifts and campaign donations from people trying to do business with the state pension fund. As comptroller, Hevesi was sole trustee of the fund, now valued at nearly $150 billion. He pleaded guilty to official misconduct in 2010 and was sentenced to one to four years in prison.
At his hearing, he told the story of an immigrant kid rising to the state legislature and finally state comptroller, where he routinely crossed paths with hedge fund millionaires, Wall Street billionaires, presidents and prime ministers.
"I got arrogant," he said. "Not arrogant that I treated people like British nobles and how they treat their servants, not like that, but that I am entitled."
The 72-year-old former assemblyman and New York City comptroller was entangled in an investigation of so-called "pay to play" practices at the pension fund. Hevesi will be released by Dec. 19, with parole supervision to follow until April 14, 2015. Release conditions include not associating with three other men convicted in the investigation: political consultant Henry Morris, investor Elliot Broidy and former fund investment officer David Loglisi.
Hevesi told the parole board that he now understands letting a venture capitalist pay $75,000 of expenses for trips to Israel, primarily on pension fund business, which the state could have paid, was criminal. He said that all campaign contributions were spent on his re-election and that he didn't personally receive any money.
"All of a sudden I am a big shot in my own head, not overt that I committed a crime but because I said I am entitled to some of these perks too," he told the board. "It got away from me. Maybe this is wrong, but I willfully turned away from that and decided not to inquire, I allowed it to happen and that is why I am in prison and that is why I didn't challenge it because, you know what, I am guilty."