LOCKPORT – Former Town of Niagara Supervisor Steven C. Richards received the expected sentence of three years’ probation Monday on his guilty plea for official misconduct.
It was the sentence the sides had agreed upon May 5, when Richards pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor to cover a 23-count indictment. Five other counts were dismissed.
Richards, 61, has paid $1,240.37 in restitution to cover what Assistant Attorney General Diane LaVallee called the value of the town property and labor he misappropriated in incidents dating back as far as 2001.
Richards, who resigned May 2 as part of the plea deal, choked up as he said, “I would just like to formally apologize to this court, the residents of my town and my family.”
State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns said Richards’ departure was good news for town employees, “who were forced to live under a cloud of stress or worry.”
The indictment accused Richards of taking small amounts of town property and of having town employees do work for him on town time.
The specific guilty plea was for sending a town truck and crew to Lancaster in May 2010 to pick up a sewer receiver and deliver it to Richards’ auto repair shop, where it was installed in the parking lot.
While LaVallee said Richards resigned “in disgrace,” defense attorney Scott R. Hapeman said, “That resignation followed 19 years of service and substantial accomplishment.”
The defense asked Burns to impose two years of probation instead of the normal three. The prosecution asked for 40 hours of community service and a ban from Town Hall. Burns rejected all of those suggestions, instead ordering Richards “not to be involved in politics on any level as a candidate during your term of probation.”
Hapeman said, “Mr. Richards intends to move forward with retirement, focusing on the future and spending time with his family.”
Several members of that family were in the courtroom, including his father, former Supervisor Calvin Richards, 87, who is still chairman of the town Industrial Development Agency, and his 90-year-old mother, Theresa.
Casey Aguglia, spokeswoman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, issued a statement saying Schneiderman “is committed to prosecuting anyone who abuses the public trust, which is why he has brought charges against more than 40 politicians, government employees and nonprofit officials all across the state.”
Aguglia said the Richards case “sends the message that elected officials who violate the trust of hardworking New Yorkers will be held accountable. There has to be one set of rules for everyone, no matter how rich or powerful.”