Paula McMahon has the story:
Shackled and dressed in khaki jail scrubs, Livoti showed the emotion of a scared man fighting to save himself from spending the rest of his life in prison — but he also displayed the skills of a tough attorney who fought for his clients in more than 40 years of lawyering.
"I had a life that was always filled with joy. I now have a life that is filled with sadness," Livoti said, speaking of the three months that he has already spent locked up in the Federal Detention Center in Miami since his conviction.
Livoti, 65, of Fort Lauderdale, was best known as a police union lawyer and for his advocacy work for the gay community. He was convicted in December after a three-month trial.
The Ponzi scheme bought out life insurance policies at discount prices from seniors and people who were dying of AIDS, cancer and other terminal conditions. In what became known as the Mutual Benefits Corp. scam, led by Joel Steinger, the policies were sold to investors who expected to make a profit by receiving the full insured value when the beneficiaries died.
Jurors took an extraordinarily long eight days of deliberations to find Livoti guilty of four charges, including conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering, but found him not guilty of 20 related counts.
Livoti, the only defendant who went to trial in the case, finally acknowledged his guilt in court Tuesday after long denying it.
"I lost my way and I wish I could go back and change it," Livoti said, apologizing to the victims for what he called the "terrible wrong" he committed.
Livoti insisted that he had thought he was innocent of the charges until he went to trial and heard all of the evidence against him. He said he had thought that the problems with Mutual Benefits were caused because medical advances were helping people with AIDS live longer than expected and even survive.
Sentencing guidelines suggested a punishment of 80 years. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Rochlin recommended a 30-year term and the defense asked for six years in prison – twice the punishment that Livoti would have received if he took the last plea agreement prosecutors offered before he went to trial.
Livoti, the son of a New York state judge, told U.S. District Judge Robert Scola Jr. that he had already lost his reputation, his career and his freedom.
He begged the judge to give him hope, which he said he had lost, that he would not die in prison and could some day be released to spend the rest of his life with his husband, Michael Porter. He said he also wants to try to make amends for his crimes. The felony convictions mean he will lose his law license.
"Judge, I am a life worth saving," Livoti said.