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Former NYPD chief sentenced to probation, avoiding prison time

The sentence by U.S. District Judge Gregory Woods followed emotional arguments from the prosecution and the defense about the seriousness of former NYPD deputy chief Michael Harrington’s crime.

Former NYPD Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, left, exits

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

Former NYPD deputy chief Michael Harrington escaped a jail term and was put on two years of probation in Manhattan federal court for giving police perks like boat rides and helicopter flyovers to Jeremy Reichberg, a businessman who wined and dined him.

The sentence by U.S. District Judge Gregory Woods followed emotional arguments from the prosecution and the defense about the significance of the crime, and an apology from Harrington in his bid for leniency for the “shame and embarrassment” he had caused.

“I know I let a lot of people down, and for that I’m truly sorry,” Harrington, who pleaded guilty in March, told a courtroom packed with family and police supporters. “ . . . We all make mistakes in life. Some take responsibility, and some don’t.”

Harrington, 53, a 30-year NYPD veteran from Staten Island, was first charged in 2016 with doing favors for Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz — the informant at the center of a City Hall corruption probe — in return for thousands of dollars in dinners, presents, tickets and work for a family security business Harrington started.

Prosecutors dropped the quid-pro-quo bribery allegation as part of plea deal, and Harrington admitted only to misapplying police resources — including boat rides and flyovers for Reichberg parties, rides in police cars, providing cops to help resolve private disputes and letting a camp use an NYPD training facility.

Woods — who ordered Harrington to perform 180 hours of community service, and pay $6,000 restitution and a $5,000 fine — said an ex-cop would be particularly vulnerable in jail, but told Harrington that favoring his pals was a “serious” breach of trust with the public.

“As a senior official of the NYPD, Mr. Harrington was entrusted to protect the public without fear or favor,” the judge said. “He misused that trust.”

After the sentencing, the third-generation cop celebrated with family and police backers — smiling, shaking hands and embracing — and the crowd applauded defense lawyer Andrew Weinstein as he left.

Harrington faced a recommended range of zero to six months under federal sentencing guidelines, but despite the limited stakes Weinstein and prosecutor Martin Bell each spoke for nearly an hour arguing about the seriousness of the offense before the sentence.

Weinstein said Harrington had a stellar career as a by-the-book “work, church and home” cop, and prosecutors had blown up petty violations that would normally have been handled inside the department into a federal case, while other cops linked to Reichberg and Rechnitz — including some more senior — weren’t punished.

“Michael Harrington shouldn’t be here today,” he told the judge.

But Bell described his childhood growing up in Crown Heights in the 1990s and the breach between cops and black residents that emerged from perceptions of favoritism toward Orthodox Jews that ended in violence, telling the judge Harrington was minimizing the harm from corrosive conduct.

“This was not nothing,” Bell said. “This was something important.”

After the sentencing, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman echoed that sentiment. “Michael Harrington abused the sacred trust placed in him by applying the people’s resources, including its officers, to the interests and whims of a connected few,” Berman said in a statement.

Harrington took early retirement from the NYPD after his 2016 arrest. Reichberg is scheduled to go to trial in October on corruption charges with former deputy inspector James Grant. Rechnitz, who pleaded guilty but has not been sentenced, is expected to be a witness at that trial.

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