Joseph A. Mascia was sentenced Thursday to a one-year conditional discharge on his guilty plea to an election law misdemeanor in two unsuccessful campaigns – a plea that led to legal problems that he overcame to win re-election as a Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority tenant commissioner.
Chief City Judge Thomas P. Amodeo said he found it unusual that prosecutors had gone through with the election law case.
The prosecution stemmed from Mascia’s failure to file campaign financial-disclosure statements for his 2011 run for Erie County Legislature and his 2012 run for the Assembly.
“We don’t see many such cases here,” Amodeo said.
But he added that the prosecution had a strong case and that election laws and regulations need to be followed.
He also noted that Mascia has complied with a condition of his April 11 guilty plea by filing the financial-disclosure statements for his two campaigns.
Amodeo said the presentencing report indicated that it would be unjust to send Mascia to jail and recommended a conditional discharge.
In going along with that recommendation, the judge told Mascia that he must lead a law-abiding life for the next year. If he gets in trouble during that period, he could face up to a year in jail.
Amodeo said he was not ordering Mascia to perform any community service as a condition of the discharge.
“I know the things you do on your own at the Marine Drive Apartments and in the community,” he said, referring to the BMHA apartment complex where the 69-year-old former stonemason and Vietnam War-era veteran lives with his wife.
The judge urged Mascia to continue that community service.
Before Amodeo sentenced Mascia, defense attorney Joel L. Daniels told the judge that his client had been re-elected to his fifth two-year term as a tenant commissioner on the BMHA Board with 95 percent of the vote in the July 8 election.
Mascia then addressed the court, citing his service as tenant commissioner, as well as the undue stress he said he and his wife suffered following his guilty plea.
The plea led the BMHA to declare that the misdemeanor was a violation of Mascia’s oath of office under the state Public Officers Law, automatically vacating his tenant commissioner position, which expired June 30.
It also led to the removal of his name from the ballot for the tenant commissioner election.
Mascia successfully challenged that action in court and was returned to the ballot after State Supreme Court Justice Shirley Troutman ruled June 16 that his guilty plea did not bar him from seeking re-election.
A day before he was sentenced, Mascia told The Buffalo News that he planned to withdraw his plea after he said he learned that prosecutors would seek the maximum sentence of a year in jail and a fine. But Daniels said in court Thursday that this was a misunderstanding.
Assistant District Attorney Paul E. Bonanno made no recommendation on sentencing, noting that Mascia had complied with the condition of the plea that he file the two financial-disclosure statements.
Mascia has alleged that the BMHA’s moves against his status as a tenant commissioner and his run for re-election were the result of his frequent criticism of the administration and its spending.
BMHA officials say the moves resulted from his guilty plea.
The authority is appealing Troutman’s finding that the plea did not involve a crime of moral turpitude that would automatically remove Mascia from the board.