Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Prosecutors won't seek to jail Alan Hevesi pal Ray Harding despite his role in pay-to-play scandal

Tuesday, May 17th 2011, 4:00 AM

Alan Hevesi pal Ray Harding will not have to spend any time behind bars.
Michael Schwartz for News
Alan Hevesi pal Ray Harding will not have to spend any time behind bars.

ALBANY - Prosecutors won't seek jail time when the once-powerful boss of the old state Liberal Party is sentenced Wednesday in a pay-to-play pension fund scandal.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office will not recommend Ray Harding spend time behind bars for his guilty plea to a felony securities fraud charge, sources said.

Harding fessed to pocketing more than $800,000 in pension fund-related fees in exchange for political favors for disgraced ex-state Controller Alan Hevesi.

Sources said Schneiderman's team was willing to give Harding a pass given his cooperation with investigators and failing health.

State Inspector General Ellen Biben, who oversaw the four-year pension investigation and is handling Harding's sentencing, backs the decision, sources added.

Harding, 76, is said to have heart and other health problems related to obesity.

"They're worried the guy won't survive in prison," said one source. "Otherwise, everyone agrees jail time would be appropriate."

Harding faces up to four years in jail when Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Lewis Bart Stone hands down the sentence.

The judge could ignore prosecutors and still send Harding up the river.

Harding, a longtime backer of Hevesi's political campaigns, helped create a vacancy for a Queens Assembly seat that was won in 2005 by Hevesi's son, Andrew.

Amid the unfolding pension fund scandal, Harding was listed as a middleman in several pension fund deals that netted him big bucks - for performing little or no work.

Hevesi and Hank Morris, the ex-controller's political guru and scandal ringleader, were each sentenced to up to four years in prison earlier this year.

Hevesi begged to be spared prison time, citing his cooperation with investigators and health woes - but was rebuffed.

For years, Harding headed the small but influential Liberal Party. In his role, he had a close relationship with Hevesi dating back to his time as city controller.

Reached recently at his Bronx home, Harding had no comment. He referred all questions to his lawyer, who did not return a call or email.

klovett@nydailynews.com

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