U.S. appeals court upholds Gerard Terry decision

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Gerard Terry, 64, of Roslyn Heights, will be spending three years in prison for federal and state tax fraud charges. (Photo courtesy of the Nassau County District Attorney's office)
Gerard Terry, 64, of Roslyn Heights, will be spending three years in prison for federal and state tax fraud charges. (Photo courtesy of the Nassau County District Attorney's office)

A U.S. Appeals Court panel denied an appeal from former North Hempstead Democratic Party head Gerard Terry last Friday, meaning his three-year conviction for tax evasion still stands.

Terry has been in FCI Fort Dix, a low-security federal correctional institution in New Jersey, and has an expected release date of Dec. 23, 2020, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website. A representative at Fort Dix could not be reached to confirm the release date or when Terry first reported to federal prison.

Terry’s lawyers argued that his plea did not comply with federal criminal procedural roles, according to court papers, saying that the district court “failed to inform him of the nature of the crime to which he was pleading guilty.”

But the three-judge panel of Richard Wesley, Denny Chin and Richard Sullivan wrote in their decision that elements of tax evasion were discussed, Terry’s pleas reflected these elements and Terry’s arguments were “without merit.”

Terry, of Roslyn Heights, had pleaded guilty in October 2017 to nearly $1 million in federal tax evasion charges, while working for entities like the Town of North Hempstead, the villages of Port Washington and Manorhaven, the Long Beach Housing Authority and Freeport Community Development Agency.

Prosecutors have said that Terry failed to file income tax returns from 2000 to 2015, while making about $250,000 annually from various jobs– avoiding more than $992,057 in federal income taxes – and serving as North Hempstead’s Democratic Party chairman.

“While the district court did not explicitly explain the elements of tax evasion, all three elements were discussed in detail, and the record certainly does not indicate that a miscarriage of justice has occurred,” the Appeals Court judges wrote.

The judges found that the district court “engaged in a lengthy colloquy with Terry and his counsel” over allegedly cashing checks and using a corporate name to “avoid levy collection by the IRS.”

They also said Terry, once a lawyer himself, was “perfectly capable” of entering a plea and understanding “the rights he was waiving by pleading guilty.”

Daniel Perez, an attorney for Terry, was not immediately available for comment.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District declined to comment on the case.

Prosecutors have said Terry “routinely provided false, misleading and incomplete information” to the Internal Revenue Service, once created a checking account in the name of a corporate nominee to conceal income and “pressured colleagues and subordinates to not comply with IRS notices of levy.”

He was sentenced to three years in prison and three years of supervised release for tax evasion in May 2018.

More than 100 people, ranging from religious leaders to lawmakers like Congressman Tom Suozzi, had written letters to Joanna Seybert, a federal judge, outlining Terry’s skills, pro bono work and health issues, and urging leniency in the sentencing.

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