After months of delays, John Rigas likely faces sentencing this week for the multibillion­-dollar fraud at Adelphia Communications. He has certainly rallied the troops to lobby Federal Judge Leonard Sands to show leniency.
In a standard part of the sentencing dance—marshalling supporters to write to the judge attesting to the defendant’s good character—Rigas’ supporters have made the pitch that he is a good-hearted, small-town fellow who, though he has been fabulously wealthy, is also the sort who’s willing to help strangers. Or so we’ve gleaned from court documents filed by both sides.
One man believes Rigas saved his son’s life. The injured boy needed to be rushed by plane from Coudersport in rural Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh for treatment, his father told Judge Sands, but the plane broke down. Rigas, who lives in Coudersport, had just landed in his own plane at the airport and offered to provide transportation.
Prosecutors dismiss this kind of endorsement as coming from people who never “knew of or saw the criminal acts proven at trial.” They point to the case of Rigas’ sole character witness, David Acker, a lawyer and CEO of a Coudersport hospital, who praised Rigas for flying a friend with bone cancer to Florida for a fishing trip. But as prosecutors pointed out to Judge Sands, when Rigas also lent Acker’s own family his condo in Cancun for two days, Acker might have thought it was what he called “an act of kindness,” but unbeknownst to him, Rigas billed Adelphia $4,900 as a business expense for the Ackers’ stay. And he claimed the family kicked back in the Cancun condo for two weeks, not two days.
Lawyers for Rigas, the former Adelphia chairman, and his son, ex-CFO Tim Rigas, are hoping Judge Sands will sentence the two to probation or house confinement. Prosecutors are seeking 215 years apiece in federal prison.