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Jul 13, 2017 7:56 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Guldi Released Without Bail As Prosecutors Appeal Ruling That Threw Out Felony Conviction

George Guldi leaves the criminal court building in Riverside on Wednesday morning.  DANA SHAW
Jul 13, 2017 7:56 AM

Former Suffolk County Legislator George Guldi is free for the first time in six years, released on his own recognizance late Wednesday morning after a court overturned his March 2011 conviction on felony grand larceny and insurance fraud charges stemming from the destruction of his former family home in Westhampton Beach nearly a decade ago.

On Wednesday, prosecutors said they will appeal last week’s state appellate court ruling. The appeals process is expected to take about eight weeks.

Mr. Guldi, who turned 64 on Tuesday and has been imprisoned since 2011, must return before State Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen on September 13. If the prosecution’s appeal is denied, Mr. Guldi would then be re-arraigned on the two felony counts and faces a new trial.

As part of his release, Mr. Guldi will be living with a cousin somewhere in Suffolk County as the appeal process proceeds, according to prosecutors. They declined to provide an exact address.

“It’s a nice day for a walk outside,” said Mr. Guldi, who was dressed in khaki pants and a white button-down shirt, immediately upon exiting the Riverside courtroom shortly after 11 a.m. on Wednesday with his cousin, Tom Guldi, and attorney Michael Scotto. “Look, a tree!”

Wednesday’s court proceeding took about 20 minutes after the prosecution revealed that it would delay arraigning Mr. Guldi on the felony counts a second time.

Mr. Guldi said the first thing he intends to do is visit his children, though he, his cousin and Mr. Scotto could be overhead making plans to first stop at a luncheonette.

Wednesday’s court hearing comes exactly one week after a state appellate court threw out the disbarred attorney’s March 2011 conviction, in which he had been found guilty of misappropriating more than $860,000 in insurance money that was supposed to be used to rebuild his Griffing Avenue home. It later went into foreclosure and was torn down by the village in 2015 after becoming an eyesore.

Mr. Guldi had been serving a four- to 12-year sentence at the Marcy Correctional Facility in upstate New York for his crimes.

Robert Clifford, a spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, emphasized on Tuesday that prosecutors had established Mr. Guldi’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” for the grand larceny and insurance fraud charges.

Handed down on Wednesday, July 5, and in response to a pair of appeals filed by Mr. Guldi from prison, the ruling states the Suffolk County Criminal Court made a “reversible error” when it denied his attempts to have a prospective juror—an employee of the insurance company that cut Mr. Guldi a check that was supposed to cover the rebuilding of his home—removed from the trial.

The ruling goes on to state that Mr. Guldi—who has already served the maximum three-year sentence for his role in an unrelated $82 million mortgage fraud scheme that targeted dozens of homes, most on the East End—had a right to a new trial, if prosecutors opted for one.

He had been twice denied parole, with the latest rejection occurring in October 2016. At his last hearing, board members cited Mr. Guldi’s lack of remorse for his crimes as the main reason for their denial.

Edward Guldi—the son of George Guldi, and a 34-year-old attorney from Sound Beach—said on Friday that he was waiting for a decision from the DA’s office regarding the grand larceny and insurance fraud charges.

Terri Scofield, a paralegal, longtime friend and ex-fiancée of Mr. Guldi, said on Tuesday that she believed the DA’s office would opt not to retry the case. “I can’t imagine that they’re in any shape to hold him,” she said. “The case is a decade old; we already know their strategies. I very much doubt that he’ll be retried.”

In the July 5 ruling handed down by the State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, 2nd District, the unnamed juror—dubbed “prospective juror No. 16”—was also identified as an employee of the American International Insurance Company, or AIG. AIG paid Mr. Guldi and Countrywide Home Loans $864,373.30 to cover the loss of Mr. Guldi’s home at 9 Griffing Avenue in Westhampton Beach, which burned down on November 30, 2008. Mr. Guldi’s indictment charged that he stole the funds by forging Countrywide’s endorsement on the insurance check and depositing it into his personal account. The account had a fraction of the funding left when it was finally frozen by authorities.

The appellate court, meanwhile, denied a separate attempt by Mr. Guldi to have nearly three dozen counts of intent to fraud and grand larceny dismissed on the same grounds, ruling that the former attorney waived his right to appeal those charges when he accepted a plea deal while being prosecuted on the separate $82 million mortgage fraud case. Mr. Guldi, who served as his own attorney, pleaded guilty to 34 criminal counts just as jury selection was beginning in August 2011. He was sentenced to between one and three years in prison by Suffolk County Judge James F.X. Doyle, and that sentence was supposed to run concurrently with the four to 12 years he received for his prior conviction.

“With regard to the judgment rendered August 31, 2011, the record sufficiently demonstrates that the defendant knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived his right to appeal,” the ruling reads. “Moreover, contrary to the defendant’s contention, his plea of guilty was not induced by the County Court’s explicit promise that he would receive a lesser sentence to run concurrently with the sentence previously imposed with respect to the judgment rendered on March 21, 2011, as the court clearly informed him that the plea would stand regardless of whether the previously imposed sentence was vacated.”

Last week’s decision specifically tosses two felony charges—second-degree grand larceny and third-degree insurance fraud—filed against Mr. Guldi after prosecutors charged he misappropriated more than $860,000 in funding that was supposed to be spent on rebuilding his Westhampton Beach home. The cause of the fire was ruled accidental by authorities. The house, which remained an eyesore for years, fell into foreclosure and was finally demolished by Westhampton Beach Village in March 2015.

Specifically, the appellate court ruled that the unnamed juror “did not provide a completely unequivocal assurance that she could be fair and impartial” during the first round of jury selection. The decision notes that she “conceded” that there could be a “conflict of interest” if she were seated for Mr. Guldi’s trial. The court also denied Mr. Guldi’s challenge without asking her further questions about her employment, or how her professional status might affect her judgment. Mr. Guldi had exhausted all of his juror challenges by that time.

As for Edward Guldi, he says his father is planning for all possible outcomes, adding that “we are still in the dark about [the] retrial.”

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As long as he stays in jail who cares?? Guldi, Motz & other "public servants" are where they belong for ripping people off. Hopefully Guldi will get more prison time with his new trial.
By G (339), Southampton on Jul 6, 17 2:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ms. Riga is mistaken in stating that Guldi is "... currently serving a four- to 12-year sentence for an unrelated $82 million mortgage fraud scheme...". The 4 - 12 year sentence was imposed on the insurance fraud and grand larceny charges. AFTER this wrongful conviction, Guldi pled guilty to 35 of the original 117 counts on the mortgage fraud case, and was sentenced to 1 - 3 years on each count, concurrent with each other and concurrent with the time he was already sentenced to.
As we stand ...more
By oneseriousSicilian (63), medford on Jul 7, 17 6:01 AM
So he still screwed people, or was that wrong ��
By LI native (127), LI on Jul 7, 17 7:02 AM
1 member liked this comment
Look, I got screwed by Guldi. I was the ONLY person who stood by him from his March 2009 indictment to December of 2016. I spent 90% of my inheritance, 6 years of free paralegal services, 4 years of free property management, weekly prison visits, 35 lb prison packages a month of organic, non-GMO healthy food and countless hours of telephone and correspondence time only to be dumped the minute he knew he'd be freed. But rather than remain feeling Heartbroken, angry, hurt and betrayed, I choose to ...more
By oneseriousSicilian (63), medford on Jul 10, 17 11:49 AM
1 member liked this comment
Where is the 860k?

Obviously it didn't fix the house...
By Mr. Z (11670), North Sea on Jul 12, 17 2:49 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By carsrus (65), Hampton Bays on Jul 12, 17 4:48 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Arnold Timer (326), Sag Harbor on Jul 13, 17 12:15 AM
A wrong turn in thinking still deserves a fair administration of justice.. How did the Defense find out about the Juror? I am not surprised by Suffolk DA improprieties.
By Leslie J. (4), Bridgehampton on Jul 8, 17 9:13 AM
A prospective juror's employer would be disclosed on the pro forma questionaire, and with that fact known, it appears that the defense attempt to have the questionable juror challenged "for cause."

For some reason, the presiding judge denied the validity of that challenge. Whether George realized at the time that this was a reversible error is unknown, but the Appellate Court knew what it was an tossed the conviction.

And while your comment about the Suffolk County DA is valid, ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on Jul 9, 17 10:12 AM
I blogged during the farce of a trial that Guldi was, in fact, keeping track of the myriad reversible errors of corrupt former judge James "FiX it" Doyle. If memory serves me correctly the very first one was the first day of jury-stacking, on a Batson challenge by Guldi when the prosecution used one of their challenges to dump the second person of color from the jury and the judge failed to require the prosecution to articulate a logical, race-neutral basis for striking that juror. I believe Doyle ...more
By oneseriousSicilian (63), medford on Jul 13, 17 8:23 PM
Let the guy go. He paid his debt to society. We can't have a different set of laws whereby rich connected liberals go free and less connected, disagreeable ones get tossed in the clink.
By even flow (988), East Hampton on Jul 12, 17 12:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
Back on the bricks for George! I'd say that was a big win for him, albeit at the expense of a big chunk of his life.

But why isn't Terri Scofield (aka oneseriousSicilian )doing her exuberant little vindication dance all over this update?

By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on Jul 12, 17 1:12 PM
Because the fat lady doesn't sing 'till it over and exoneration is complete. That should happen when the court of appeals declines to hear the case and the corrupt Suffolk DA's office declines to retry or retries and does not prevail. Stay tuned.
By oneseriousSicilian (63), medford on Jul 13, 17 2:01 PM
ENOUGH……….he didn't commit a MURDER ! He served enough time……..RUINED his life and his FAMILY…………LEAVE HIM GO !
By carsrus (65), Hampton Bays on Jul 12, 17 4:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
And your law degree is from where exactly?

By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on Jul 12, 17 11:11 PM
BTW, I thought comments were closed on legal matters.
By Mr. Z (11670), North Sea on Jul 12, 17 9:26 PM
Did he not plead GUILTY???
By knitter (1902), Southampton on Jul 15, 17 10:54 AM
There ya go!

By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on Jul 15, 17 11:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
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