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What you need to know for 08/18/2017

George lawyer seeks fine only in Llenroc case

George lawyer seeks fine only in Llenroc case

The defense attorney for Annie George has now weighed in on what sentence she should get Tuesday, as
George lawyer seeks fine only in Llenroc case
Annie George, owner of the Llenroc mansion in Rexford, leaves the federal courthouse in Albany during her March trial on charges of harboring an illegal alien.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson

The defense attorney for Annie George has now weighed in on what sentence she should get Tuesday, asking that she only be fined for her conviction of harboring an illegal immigrant at the Llenroc mansion.

Defense attorney Mark Sacco filed his sentencing memorandum last week in U.S. District Court in Albany, arguing that the issue of what is a just punishment for George is a difficult one. However, multiple factors, including her lack of criminal history, that she has “dutifully cared for” her five remaining children “under very difficult circumstances” and trial testimony offered by the defense all show she should receive the minimum sentence, Sacco argued.

“I feel the testimony of the defense witnesses highlighted who Annie George is — a good person, an overwhelmed person and a person that is unlikely to commit any crime in the future,” Sacco wrote.

Sacco also argued George had little involvement with the actual arrangements to bring the illegal immigrant into the home, with the defense contending at trial that those arrangements were made by George’s late husband.

Accordingly, Sacco wrote, he requested that George be sentenced to a fine, with no probation or home detention.

The defense recommendation contrasts with a prosecution recommendation that also calls for no jail time, but does seek eight months of home detention, 200 hours of community service, two years of probation and a $20,000 fine.

The final sentence is up to the judge. Sentencing is set for Tuesday morning in Albany. George officially faces as much as five years in federal prison, as well as a $250,000 fine.

George was convicted in March of harboring an illegal immigrant at her Rexford estate. The jury, though, acquitted her on the more serious charge of harboring an illegal immigrant for financial gain.

The case drew interest not so much for the allegations as for the setting. George was convicted of harboring illegal immigrant Valsamma Mathai at the opulent but deteriorating Llenroc mansion.

Llenroc, which is “Cornell” spelled backward, was built in 1990 by insurance magnate Albert Lawrence. He never made public what he paid to build the mansion, but its total cost was rumored to be roughly $32.5 million.

But it ultimately came into the George family hands for a relative pittance, $1.9 million, in 2009. But, according to defense testimony at trial, the family has had little money to keep the property up. Saratoga County officials last year also indicated the family was deeply behind on property tax payments.

Now, the mansion itself could change hands again, to the U.S. government. Though proceedings on that are far from over, prosecutors recently won a ruling from Chief Judge Gary L. Sharpe that the mansion was indeed subject to forfeiture.

The mansion is officially owned by Power Angels, a limited liability corporation consisting of Annie George, her five children and her brother, Siju Augustine. Prosecutors, however, argued the harboring began prior to the forming of the LLC.

Parties other than George who claim interest in the property will get their chance to argue to keep their claims at future proceedings.

The George family was struck by tragedy in 2009, when Mathai Kolath George and one of the couple’s sons were killed when their small plane crashed into the Mohawk River in Glenville.

At the March trial, the jury found Annie George knew or should have known that Indian citizen Valsamma Mathai, who had lived with the family for more than five years, was an illegal immigrant. The acquittal on the more serious charge suggested the jury rejected the prosecution’s contention that Mathai stayed with the family as a formal servant.

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