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August 4, 2010

Crooked local politician seeking sentencing help from fatherhood and Facebook

An upcoming federal sentencing for a local Pennsylvania politician convicted of taking kickbacks is raising a bunch of interesting issues.  First, as detailed in this local story, the defendant is seeking leniency based on his fatherhood:

Former Luzerne County commissioner Greg Skrepenak is asking a judge to reduce his possible prison sentence based on the fact he is a single father caring for three children. Skrepenak, 40, is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday for his guilty plea to accepting a $5,000 kickback for helping a developer win entry into a tax forgiveness program.

In a motion filed Tuesday, Skrepenak’s attorney, Peter Moses, says Skrepenak is the sole caregiver for the children because their mother, his estranged wife, Carrie, suffers from drug addiction and is currently incarcerated. “The love and devotion of Mr. Skrepenak for his children is unparalleled, and the unique nature of the family of Mr. Skrepenak present specific mental and physical needs that only Mr. Skrepenak can address,” Moses said....

Skrepenak pleaded guilty in January to corrupt receipt of a reward for official action.  Federal sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of 33 to 41 months in prison, but Skrepenak hopes to convince U.S. District Judge Richard P. Conaboy to impose a sentence below that range given his “extraordinary family situation.”

Federal law allows a judge to impose a sentence that is higher or lower than the suggested range if the jurist finds there are compelling reasons to do so, which can include family ties and responsibilities.  Moses says that’s clearly the situation in Skrepenak’s case.

Skrepenak, a former NFL lineman, has been the sole caregiver for his children, Christian, 15, Gregory, 13, and Maria, 11 for most of their lives given their mother’s trouble with addiction.  It’s important for him to be there for the children to address mental health issues, as well as physical ailments, including sleep apnea and allergies, that they suffer, Moses says.

Moses also contends a reduction is warranted to help erase a gender disparity that exists in sentences that are imposed upon male defendants compared to female defendants. “Historically, sentences for females and single female parents have statistically and significantly been less harsh than those of their male counterparts,” Moses says.  “The sentence of Mr. Skrepenak, a single father of three children, should be adjusted downward then, given the need to equalize sentencing disparities among other charged individuals on the basis of gender.”...

Contacted Tuesday night, Moses said he also plans to raise other issues at Skrepenak’s sentencing, including his charitable work and commitment to the community, in hopes of further reducing his sentence.  “We thought these issues were important to raise.  What the likelihood of success is, I don’t know.  We believed it was important to at least raise the issues,” Moses said.

In addition, as this related article details, the defendant is also trying to drum up sentencing support with the help of social media:

Former Luzerne County commissioner Greg Skrepenak has sent a request to some of his Facebook friends to write character letters to a federal judge before he is sentenced Friday.

County Controller Walter Griffith said one of his employees received Skrepenak’s request on the Internet social networking site last weekend, prompting Griffith to issue an e-mail reminding employees that they may not view or respond to Facebook on county time....

Skrepenak’s Facebook request, issued July 30, is one paragraph:

“Many of you know (some may not) that I had to plead guilty in December to charges levied against me from the federal government arising from my political career. I made some dumb mistakes and thought people were friends when I should have separated my personal and public life. I only have myself to blame and had to hold myself accountable so my sentencing hearing is coming up on the 6th.”

He said anyone “willing” to send a character letter on his behalf should send it to Conaboy along with a copy to Moses. “Any effort is greatly appreciated! Thought and prayers are greatly appreciated too!!” Skrepenak wrote.

He only sent the request to some of his 1,725 Facebook friends.

August 4, 2010 at 08:31 AM | Permalink

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