Gerard Terry can leave home before federal trial, judge rules

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Gerard Terry was first arrested on a state tax fraud charge in April 2016. (Photo from Nassau County District Attorney's office)

Gerard Terry, the indicted former North Hempstead political operative, can freely leave his East Hills home while he awaits his federal trial for alleged tax crimes, a judge ruled Friday.

U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert changed the conditions of Terry’s bail so that he is no longer subject to home detention and monitoring with an electronic ankle bracelet, according to court documents filed Friday in Central Islip.

Seybert first ordered Terry, a former North Hempstead Democratic Committee chairman and attorney for several North Shore municipalities, to home detention at his Jan. 31 arraignment on charges of tax evasion and obstructing enforcement of Internal Revenue Service laws.

Prosecutors allege Terry, 62, engaged in a “pattern of deception” to avoid paying a tax debt of nearly $1.4 million that he’s accumulated since 2000. He has pleaded not guilty.

But Seybert on Friday sided with Stephen Scaring, Terry’s attorney, who argued in a Feb. 14 court filing that being confined to his home prevented him from earning money to repay his tax debt.

Terry and his wife, Concetta Terry, have “virtually no current income,” and he struggles with chronic health issues that make him unlikely to flee before trial, Scaring wrote.

“[W]hile the government is eager to bandy about the notion that Mr. Terry has a secret cache of wealth, prosecutors offer no evidence to support this claim,” Scaring wrote.

But Artie McConnell, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case, said the fact that Terry continued to evade tax collectors even while he was being investigated last year indicates a risk that he could run.

“Given his track record, it would be logical to infer and conclude that the defendant would go to equal, if not greater, lengths to avoid going to federal prison, while also seeking to thwart ongoing federal investigations into other corrupt and fraudulent conduct that he has engaged in,” McConnell wrote in a Feb. 17 court filing.

McConnell questioned Scaring’s claim that Terry wants to focus his personal law practice on private clients, saying he “remained actively involved in matters of municipal hiring, public contracts and rezoning” until his most recent arrest.

Terry was an influential political leader and worked as an attorney for eight municipalities — including the Town of North Hempstead, Nassau County and the villages of Manorhaven and Port Washington North, among others — before Newsday revealed his tax debt in January 2016.

McConnell initially asked Seybert to jail Terry without bail before his trial, saying there was a risk he could further obstruct tax laws.

Such a move would have been unusual for a tax evasion case, Seybert previously said.

Terry allegedly used several methods to evade tax collectors, such as cashing paychecks at the banks from which they were written, depositing checks into a corporate checking account for a front company and having employers pay for his personal expenses directly, according to the federal indictment.

He faces as many as 51 months in prison if convicted.

Terry is also being investigated for his involvement in bid-rigging schemes in Nassau County, according to court filings.

He is next due in federal court on April 17.

Terry also faces eight tax fraud charges in New York State court, where a conference is scheduled for Tuesday.

Terry’s attorneys have said he wants to resolve the state and federal cases simultaneously.

In a statement last year, Terry blamed his tax problems on “Type A workaholic compulsion with self-denial and truly catastrophic health issues.”

Terry previously said he was working with the Internal Revenue Service to pay off the tax debt.

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