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Ex-NYPD Chief pleads guilty, avoids bribery trial

Michael Harrington admitted to misapplying police resources to help pals in the Jewish community.

Then-NYPD Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, left, leaves a

Then-NYPD Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, left, leaves a federal courthouse in Manhattan after being arraigned on Monday, June 20, 2016. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Former NYPD deputy chief Michael Harrington pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court Thursday to misapplying police resources to help pals in the Jewish community, escaping a bribery charge that had put him at the center of the city’s municipal corruption scandal in 2016.

Harrington, 53, a decorated 30-year veteran from Staten Island, had been accused of doing favors for Jona Rechnitz — the corruption informant who also accused Mayor Bill de Blasio and businessman Jeremy Reichberg — in return for dinners, hotel stays and other perks.

But prosecutors dropped the quid pro quo allegations, and the ex-cop admitted to improperly providing a police escort for a prominent Jewish leader’s hearse, letting a camp for sick kids use an NYPD training facility without following protocol, and ordering a helicopter flyover and a police-boat ride for Reichberg parties.

“Your honor, I certainly knew at the time that what I was doing was wrong, but I did not appreciate until much later that what I was doing was illegal,” Harrington told U.S. District Judge Gregory Woods.

Harrington faced 20 years in prison until Thursday, and his trial – with Reichberg and former NYPD deputy inspector James Grant – was set for April. The maximum under his plea is ten years, and prosecutors agreed that non-binding federal sentencing guidelines call for 0 to 6 months in prison.

Defense lawyer Andrew Weinstein told Woods that he hopes Harrington will get probation.

“The single new charge to which Mr. Harrington pled guilty today involving the misapplication of NYPD property is obviously a horse of a different color compared to the bribery-based offenses with which he was originally charged,” he said in a statement issued after the plea.

The case was originally brought by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Prosecutors didn’t explain why the charges were downgraded, but said in a release that Harrington had dispatched police to resolve “private civil disputes” and diverted “land, sea, and air vehicles intended for the NYPD’s public service usage.”

“Harrington allowed those resources to be used for the benefit of well-connected private citizens,” said interim Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman.

In his plea, Harrington said he departed from protocol because he “understood Mr. Reichberg to be a leader within the Jewish community, and also considered him a friend.”

He said one misdeed was letting kids from Camp Simcha – a camp for “seriously ill children with cancer and other blood disorders” – observe training at a Floyd Bennett Field facility. He also said he arranged special counter-terrorism coverage for a midtown synagogue.

Reichberg and Grant – who allegedly got a private jet trip to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl, jewelry and $12,000 in home renovations in return for favors -- are still scheduled to be tried on April 30.

Rechnitz, who said at a previous trial that he and Reichberg cultivated cops to add to their “status” as New York City players, is expected to be the star witness. Harrington’s sentencing was set for June 11.

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