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Slumlord couple face more jail time

Venere M. Hutchinson and his wife, Dana Upcher Hutchinson, having already technically completed their one-year jail terms for a $1 million bank fraud, were sentenced Wednesday to at least another year each behind bars for neglect of 14 city properties.

Housing Court Judge Henry J. Nowak delayed imposing those property violation sentences -- which could keep Venere Hutchinson, 29, behind bars for 920 more days and Dana, 33, for 570 more days -- until Jan. 12 to consider efforts by their senior attorney to spare them more jail time.

The couple have been jailed since their capture as fugitives in Tennessee last May.

Nowak did rescind a $79,300 fine he imposed on the couple in July for violating city ordinances and health laws.

Monday, State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang, with the approval of the state attorney general's office, imposed one-year local jail terms on both and forced them to sign confessions of judgments legally obligating them to repay $1 million to banks and credit unions in three states.

Alan D. Goldstein, the Hutchinsons' senior attorney, took issue with the additional jail time, contending that there is a one-year maximum term for such offenses. He also insisted that Nowak's sentence should be concurrent with Wolfgang's.

If Nowak accepts Goldstein's legal argument, which was strongly disputed by Assistant Corporation Council Gregory A. Heeb, the Hutchinsons could be released Jan. 12.

Under the state's sentencing laws, the Hutchinsons have technically already served their maximum local jail term under the Wolfgang sentence on their guilty pleas in a felony grand larceny case involving bank fraud.

Heeb said he will press for additional jail time, saying the Hutchinsons' real estate dealings have cost city taxpayers more than $140,000 in court-ordered demolitions of properties they once owned.

Heeb told Nowak the Hutchinsons' real estate scheme tied to their related bank frauds reportedly netted them $2 million.

Goldstein insisted that the couple "got over their heads" in trying to repair their properties and then fled after being made "scapegoats" for other individuals he declined to identify.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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