An investigation by the Port Washington News’ sister publication Great Neck Record has uncovered documents suggesting that Gerard Terry, the disgraced politician, was illegally practicing law and deliberately misled a federal judge, who recently inquired about the matter. If this is true, Terry may face new state charges for the unauthorized practice of law and face jail time for intentionally providing false information to a federal judge.
Terry, longtime Democratic leader in the Town of North Hempstead, pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion in federal court in October of 2017. On May 29 he was back in federal court, before Judge Joanna Seybert in Central Islip to address the court and persuade the judge that he has accepted full responsibility for his crime. At the conclusion of the hearing, Terry was sentenced to three years in jail, followed by three years’ supervised release, plus, $992,057 in restitution and $31,000 in forfeiture.
At the beginning of the hearing Seybert made repeated references to an article that appeared in the Port Washington News and Great Neck Record on May 23, which provided evidence that Terry practiced law without a license in the Nassau County District Courthouse in Hempstead seven months after he was disbarred.
Terry’s attorney, Steve Scaring, objected to the court’s use of the article to reach a conclusion. Seybert informed Scaring that she found his client’s request for leniency to be disingenuous because of the new information contained in the newspaper article.
Terry was disbarred on Sept. 25, 2017, when he pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal tax fraud. Despite the revocation of his law license, Anton Media Group published strong evidence that Terry was practicing law on May 2, 2018.
The judge said that she was so troubled by the information contained in the article that she arrived at the courthouse early and spent a few moments in her chambers researching Section 90 of the New York Judicial Law.
Seybert assured no conclusions had been reached. She explained that if she concluded that the defendant was practicing law without a license, the consequences would be serious; the defendant would forfeit any leniency that might be forthcoming. The judge informed Scaring that the primary purpose of the May 29 sentencing proceeding was to determine whether the defendant earnestly accepted responsibility for his crime.
Seybert said she was not accepting the Anton Media Group article “entirely,” but, the information “suggests obstruction of justice and a lack of personal responsibility.”
Scaring asked for a copy of the article and requested a recess to speak privately with Terry. Following this recess, Scaring informed the court that the defendant was not engaged in the illegal practice of law on May 2 and suggested that the newspaper article was manufactured by “someone who doesn’t like” his client. Instead, Scaring explained the defendant had simply accompanied his wife to the courthouse.
Court documents recently obtained by Anton Media Group, however, reflect that Seybert was misled. According to these documents, Terry committed the crime of unauthorized practice of law on at least three separate dates.
Terry not only identified himself as an attorney on May 2, he also negotiated the resolution of the case. Terry’s signature appears above the words “Gerard Terry, Esq., Attorney for Respondents.” Similar documents confirm that Terry was practicing law on March 7 and April 26, 2018. These records are further confirmed by the information contained in the database of the New York State Unified Court System.
During the sentencing hearing, Scaring told the court that the judge’s earlier interpretation of the judiciary statute was misplaced and suggested that Terry was still allowed to practice law for about seven months, even though he was convicted of a felony. Scaring told Seybert that the “official disbarment” did not occur until May 9 when Terry’s name was removed from the list of active attorneys.
Seybert asked the prosecutor, Artie McConnell, if the information provided by Scaring about the illegal practice of law was accurate and McConnell told the court, “I have no information aside from what I read” in the News/Record article.
In state supreme court on June 4, Terry was sentenced to six months in jail, five years’ probation and must pay $250,000 in restitution to the Department of Taxation and Finance.
Diane Peress, of the Nassau County district attorney’s office, said that her office had no intention of prosecuting Terry for unlicensed practice of law because he went to court on behalf of family members, which appeared to be an “isolated incident.”