Former Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa, who pleaded guilty to marriage and bankruptcy fraud in June, will face sentencing Friday morning at the Manhattan federal courthouse.
While prosecutors are asking Judge Denise Cote to sentence her to prison for 12 to 18 months, Rosa is asking for probation, court files show – and elected officials are stepping up to support her.
In 1996, Rosa, who is from the Dominican Republic, paid a man $8000 to marry her so she could become a citizen and then lied about it to federal immigration authorities, she has admitted. She also made false statements during a bankruptcy case.
Rosa, who represented Washington Heights and Inwood in uptown Manhattan, also admitted to receiving $1000 from a foreign government official during her campaign, and agreed to return it.
She resigned from office in June in accordance with her plea bargain.
The federal guidelines for sentencing, which are advisory, recommend 12 to 18 months in prison, but the plea bargain "allows us to seek a sentence that's outside of the guidelines," Richard H. Rosenberg, Rosa's lawyer, told Gotham Gazette.
"We're going in tomorrow hoping for the best," Rosenberg said.
The United States Probation Office has recommended probation – another advisory opinion. Judge Cote will make the final decision.
In a letter to Cote, Rosa called her offenses the worst mistakes she had ever made.
"I live with the shame and weight of my actions and cannot describe the impact and remorse I feel for committing these offenses," Rosa wrote. "My intention in getting involved in this [sic] offenses was related to my naïve vision of creating an ideal situation for my family. I was following the American dream."
Her lawyers noted in a court filing that she was "the family breadwinner, primary caretaker for her son" and also supported her ailing mother.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's sentencing memorandum, however, blasts Rosa's letter and recommends that Cote sentence Rosa within the guidelines.
A "decade-long scheme to obtain immigration benefits to which she was not entitled are not the acts of a 'naïve' person – they are the acts of someone who is calculating and willing to break the rules to advance her own interests," the memorandum reads.
Rosa "shows disrespect to those who pursue [the American] dream through lawful means," the memorandum continues. "Her decision to seek elective office for which she only qualified as a result of criminal conduct...represents an act of hubris warranting sanction."
On the other hand, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Rubén Díaz Sr., and Assembly Members Herman Farrell Jr. and Dan Quart sent character letters to Judge Cote. Members of Rosa's family, uptown nonprofit leaders, and several of her former constituents also sent letters, which were filed with the court.
While they said they didn't condone what she did, the elected officials praised Rosa's commitment to her district and her work ethic.
"She took her work seriously and responsibly, to the extent of becoming the first freshman member of her class to pass a piece of legislation on the floor," wrote Farrell, who Rosa worked for before being elected to the Assembly.
"She, like so many immigrants, pursued the American Dream – and made a mistake in her desperation to achieve it," wrote Díaz Sr.
"She always exceeded our expectations as a committed and principled official, and one who put the interests of her community above herself," wrote Brewer.
Rosa's supporters also point out in their letters that unlike other elected officials indicted for corruption, she did not abuse her office for personal financial gain.
But Bharara's memorandum mocked that argument: "This sets a discouragingly low bar for our elected officials," it reads.
Supporters of Rosa from her former district will gather at the Federal Courthouse tomorrow morning to urge leniency. A bus will be departing from Washington Heights to take supporters downtown.
"People in the community have expressed interest in being there and supporting her," an uptown politico told Gotham Gazette. "What people say is, 'Who hasn't done that for papers.' That's the attitude that walking through Washington Heights you hear."
Rosa was offered the chance to wear a wire and to catch other elected officials in exchange for leniency, but declined, the Daily News reported in August.
The sentencing is set for 10 a.m. Friday at the United States Courthouse on 500 Pearl St., courtroom 15B, Gloria Rojas, Cote's courtroom deputy, confirmed.
by Casey Tolan, Gotham Gazette