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Guldi Finds Himself In Jail He Once Helped Manage

Publication: The East Hampton Press
By Michael Wright   Aug 16, 2011 4:54 PM
Aug 16, 2011 5:21 PM

In a special section of the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside, set aside for high-risk or high-profile inmates, there is a suite of four cells, each 6 feet by 8 feet, surrounding a common area. In this housing unit, as it is known in the jail, separated from the rest of the jail’s approximately 1,600 prisoners is David Laffer, the man accused of executing five people during a drug store robbery in Medford; Reginald Ross, who purportedly killed a man in hopes that another man he had a mark on would attend the funeral; a major narcotics trafficker; and former Suffolk County Legislator George O. Guldi.

“I have some interesting new friends and neighbors,” Mr. Guldi said in the visiting room last week. “David Laffer—he’s a book.”

Mr. Guldi, his head shorn clean with a razor blade and wearing a bright yellow smock with the word “Visitor” across the chest, greeted a reporter last week with a vigorous handshake, broad smile and the salutation, in his deep, gravelly voice: “It’s a beautiful day to be in jail.”

The former lawmaker, now a disbarred lawyer, who is serving a sentence of four to 12 years, declined to discuss the circumstances that led to his recent guilty plea on 35 additional felony grand larceny and fraud counts, for which he will be sentenced on August 31. When the plea was entered, Justice James F.X. Doyle said that Mr. Guldi would receive a sentence of between one and three years, to run concurrently with his current sentence. District Attorney Thomas Spota was outraged by what he called a light sentence considering the “trail of financial ruin heretofore unseen in this county” left in Mr. Guldi’s wake.

Mr. Guldi said he is optimistic about his pending appeal of his first conviction, for a “fatal flaw” that he would not discuss in detail. He said he does not expect to ever be transferred to an upstate prison, as his current sentence would likely require.

Profane and forthright about his life, other than his pending legal issues, he discussed jail in his famously blunt manner.

“I’m the biggest pain-in-the-ass type of inmate,” he said. “Not because of my behavior, but because I’m ‘high profile.’ Just for me to come down here for visiting takes three officers. Look at where we’re sitting.”

When the iron gates to the visitation room opened, allowing the crowd of about 30 visitors to flood in, he was sitting alone at a far end of the room, several empty rows of stools between him and where 20 other inmates sat divided by low plastic barriers that allowed them to reach across and shake hands, hug or kiss their visitors. Guards were staged only at the corners of the room, a fair distance from the inmates and their guests.

Mr. Guldi works in the jail’s law library seven days a week as a clerk, helping other inmates file legal motions and fill out government forms. He was removed from the library for several days at the behest of the district attorney’s office, he says, because Mr. Laffer apparently told prosecutors that he had gotten legal advice from Mr. Guldi—which would be improper now that Mr. Guldi has been disbarred. Mr. Guldi said he gave Mr. Laffer no legal advice and only helped him with filing documents, as he does everybody.

“I help people with a lot of what, for them, are insurmountable obstacles—you make a lot of friends that way,” he said. Correction officers “make jokes about how many nicknames I have.”

Mr. Guldi said he does spend at least a couple hours a day talking between cells with Mr. Laffer, an unemployed Army veteran and a prescription drug addict who has been charged with shooting four people to death while he was robbing a Medford drugstore last month. He said they are not at all friends, as has been reported—a misinterpretation of the law library incident, he says—but simply two people who converse because of their forced proximity and the lack of anyone else to interact with under most circumstances.

In the common area between the four men’s cells, which can be occupied by only one of the men at a time, there is a television that is on 18 to 20 hours a day, Mr. Guldi said. The lights in the common area are on at all times.

Mr. Guldi said that he is very careful about his behavior in the jail and has written an essay about the workings of the institution and his experience in it, describing himself as “the only person in here who has voted on the budget for this place.” He said he plans to submit his Op-Ed piece to whatever publication will take it.

He noted that one of the jail’s staffers is a former classmate of his at Westhampton Beach High School, a coincidence he seemed to find amusing, and pointed out the reunion when another classmate, former U.S. Representative Michael Forbes, came to visit him recently.

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