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Mar 21, 2018 8:41 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Guldi Sentenced To Time Served; Plans To Appeal Restitution Requirement

Former Suffolk County Legislator George Guldi at his last court appearance at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead. KATE RIGA
Mar 21, 2018 11:02 AM

Former Suffolk County Legislator George Guldi wore a skull-and-crossbones bowtie to mark the occasion: his final visit to Judge Mark Cohen’s courtroom in Riverhead’s Suffolk County Court.

Mr. Guldi met his attorney, Michael Scotto, in the hallway outside the courtroom on Tuesday, March 20. “In the words of Gary Gilmore, let’s do it,” Mr. Guldi said, quoting the last words of the famous criminal before he was executed.

“This will be very anticlimactic,” Mr. Scotto replied. “Hopefully.”

The proceedings, which took two and a half hours to get started, lasted less than five minutes.

Judge Cohen sentenced Mr. Guldi to time served for a charge of grand larceny in the second degree. All that’s left now is for Mr. Guldi to pay restitution of $863,473. He plans to appeal, but that process will take months, beginning in a courtroom in Brooklyn.

After six and a half years in prison and countless trips to criminal courthouses, Mr. Guldi is hardened by a process he feels was rigged from the beginning.

“I used to think I was jaded,” he said, sitting on a bench outside of the courtroom. “Little did I know how jaded I’d become.”

Mr. Guldi feels that he landed in prison through a combination of a vindictive district attorney, two-timing coworkers and incompetent tenants. He was initially found guilty in 2011 of fraud and grand larceny after misappropriating insurance money meant to rebuilt his burned-down Westhampton Beach home. Those charges were later tossed due to a possibly biased juror, though Mr. Guldi also was indicted on separate charges for a mortgage fraud scheme targeting dozens of homes on the East End.

All told, he served the maximum three-year term for the mortgage scheme concurrently with the six and a half years he served for the insurance fraud; the maximum sentence for that second charge was 12 years.

“You know when you come home from a vacation and you just have so much to do?” Mr. Guldi asked. “Imagine coming back after six and a half years.”

Mr. Guldi said he will live in his Vermont home, which he’s owned since 2004. “I’m seeking sanctuary status from the Hamptons people in Vermont,” he said. “People are actually nice there—it’s a different attitude and value system.”

He says that he plans to work on his health and start writing a book. He added that he suffered concussions and untreated fractures from his time in prison, in addition to post traumatic stress disorder.

“If you’re not anxious and depressed in prison, you’re not sane,” he said. “They run prison like an abusive family, with threats and randomly enforced rules.”

Mr. Guldi, who represented the East End’s 2nd Legislative District from 1993 until 2003, said that he filled his days with reading, averaging about a book a day for the length of his incarceration. “It was a bizarre process and not a turn I planned on,” said Mr. Guldi. “But it was educational.”

He cites his time in solitary confinement—for infractions like unauthorized exchange of tobacco and hugging a visitor for too long, he claims—as some of the best he spent behind bars. “It’s quiet, you have privacy, the door’s locked,” he said.

What he sees as glaring problems with New York’s prison system—inadequate health care, aimless programs, a lack of reentry support—will form the cornerstone of some of his planned writing. “There is institutional inertia to fix the incarceration system,” he said. “There is no political will or constituency to change this.

“The imprisoned form the American untouchable class,” he continued. “It’s truly insane.”

For now, Mr. Guldi, a disbarred attorney, is focusing on reorienting himself to civilian life. “I don’t know how to use this new phone,” he said. “I have to find a computer with Windows ’97 so I can figure out how to use it.

“The world’s changed,” he added.

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