Yesterday Teresa Giudice was sentenced to 15 months in prison, while her husband Joe Giudice received a 41 month sentence for federal fraud charges of bankruptcy fraud, mail fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The Judge decided to give the couple staggered sentences allowing one of them to always be at home with their 4 daughters.
Teresa will begin serving her sentence first, on January 5th, 2015, so she will be able to spend the holidays with her daughters. Teresa and Joe owe $414,588 in restitution as a couple and each face two-years of supervised release following prison.
Below we give a rundown on the course of the day and what led to the Real Housewives Of New Jersey stars’ sentences.
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The day did not start off well for Teresa and Joe who arrived at the courthouse at 10 am with their defense attorneys. Both Teresa and Joe seemed subdued and disquieted by the events about to take place.
ISSUES WITH FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE:
The presiding judge, Esther Salas, immediately took the Giudices to task for failing to disclose necessary financial assets as part of their pre-sentencing requirements. In fact she shared that she delayed sentencing twice while waiting for those documents. “How is it that at this point the court is having to go over this?” Salas demanded of both defense attorneys.
Among the list of “glaring omissions” the Giudices failed to reveal were ATVs, construction equipment, several cars, jewelry (Teresa claimed she had none), and $25,000 worth of furniture (for which they have a $1 million insurance policy) and other items which were discovered by federal investigators. “It feels like things have been hidden,” Judge Salas chastised, who believed the Giudices failed to declare an estimated $75,680 worth of possessions.
Teresa’s attorney explained that most of the designer furniture seen on TV was brought in by RHONJ to stage the house. Furthermore, Teresa’s attorney argued against the judge basing Teresa’s sentencing on the ostentatious ways she behaves on reality TV. “The image is little more than a carefully crafted fiction, engineered by Bravo TV through scripted lines and clever editing.”
The couple declared the value of Teresa’s Milania hair care line at $0. And Teresa failed to declare her designer clothes, handbags and shoes. Joe and Teresa, via a letter, read aloud by the Judge, claimed they caved to the pressure to keep up with their wealthier friends which is what led them to commit fraudulent acts.
The Judge scoffed at this: “Your four daughters need to understand discipline. If you don’t have it you shouldn’t spend it,” she said. “If they won’t like you because you’re not driving a Benz or walking on Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks then they’re not your friends.” #TRUTH
Furthermore the Judge wondered why Joe, who was indicted for tax fraud, had still not filed his tax returns for the last several years, another pre-sentencing requirement. And neither Joe nor his attorney seemed to know if he had repaid the $240,000 he owes in back taxes, which the judge declared a “direct affront to the court.”
Presumably the Giudices were waiting for their bankruptcy to be settled before they were able to? “I’ve been a judge for seven years and I have yet to ever see the amount of confusion and work that went into these financial disclosures,” the baffled Judge Salas lectured.
JOE GIUDICE IS SENTENCED TO 41 MONTHS:
As he faced the Judge, a humbled Joe did not beg for mercy, but instead took responsibility for his actions and apologized. “I stand here humiliated before the court and my family and society,” he admitted. “I disgraced many people, including my wife and four daughters. I take full responsibility for my actions. I promise to be a better person.”
Joe also attempted exonerate Teresa from serving prison time by pleading that she deserved leniency because he forced her to sign documents. Joe’s attorney, Miles Feinstein, reminded the judge of the traumatic year the family had with the loss of Joe’s father who passed away from a heart attack “in Joe’s arms.” He also argued that the Joe seen on RHONJ is not the real Joe. “He’s a low-key and loving individual. This is the real Joe. Not the ‘Housewives’ Joe.”
Joe’s mother, Filomena wrote a letter, read aloud in court, which begged for Joe to receive a “slap on the wrists.” The Judge also received dozens of letters from friends and family attesting to his character as a loving and devoted father and husband. The Judge took all of these things into consideration, she said, before deciding not to give Joe the full sentence. Joe was given 41 months, along with the restitution, and an additional $10,000 in fines to the court.
“I am not sure you respect this court or our laws, and I’m not sure you understand what you’ve done,” Judge Salas reprimanded. “I want you home with your girls. You’re a great dad.”
“I have to give you credit for the life you have lived, at least to the people you have loved,” Judge Salas praised. “What you did in this case doesn’t define you as a man … You have a lot to live for.” Joe’s sentence encompasses both his federal fraud charges and his identity theft charges in state court.
After sentencing Joe’s attorney informed the Judge that his client has a drinking problem and would benefit from a residential treatment alcohol program. Joe’s attorney placed the blame on RHONJ producers and Bravo for making alcohol so readily available. The Judge dismissed this notion, but agreed Joe should get help for his substance issues in prison.
As for Joe’s “imminent deportation” (per Judge Salas), she declared that U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement will not act on that until after his sentence is served.
In addition to his sentence, restitution, and fine, Joe must pay his back taxes.
TERESA GIUDICE IS SENTENCED TO 15 MONTHS:
Before sentencing Teresa’s legal team, led by Henry Klingeman, tried to persuade Judge Salas that Teresa deserved probation, or at the very least, house arrest for her crimes.
Teresa offered to do community service and forfeit any ill-begotten monies if she was able to do home arrest, in lieu of prison time. In arguing for probation Teresa’s attorney cited that Teresa’s financial state is very “fragile” due to the nature of RHONJ’s “shelf life”. He argued that Teresa relies on the show to provide for her family and with Joe facing deportation, along with the couple’s massive debt, removing her from her only source of income for prison time could leave her and her 4 children with “no career to rely upon, no skills to rely upon, no income, no savings.”
The Prosecutor argued back, “She thumbed her nose at the court, now she wants sympathy. It’s business as usual.” As for Teresa requesting house arrest, the Prosecutor reminded the Judge that Teresa would be confined “in the very house she built on fraudulent loans.”
Judge Salas ultimately denied the “downward departure.”
Breaking down in front of Judge Salas, Teresa sobbed as she read a letter in her own defense, admitting that she was scared, nervous, and incredibly remorseful.
“Today you will hear from the wife and mother that I am and the daughter that I am. I’m not going to deny that I’m really scared … I’m blessed but today I’m humbled. I fully take responsibility for my actions. I need to learn to do things for myself. It’s time for me to wake up … My daughters are my life, that’s what keeps me going. I’ve done so much crying; my daughters are my life.
I don’t care about the TV show or materialistic things … we lost my father-in-law and that was the first grandparent we lost. I feel bad my 13-year-old knows anything.” The court then issued a five minute recess for Teresa to compose herself.
Teresa continued, crying, “I’m a woman of faith. This was not how I was raised. I’m more sorry than anyone will ever know. I will make this right no matter what it takes. Now I have even more to give. I will take this experience and continue to do the right thing. I know in my heart everything happens for a reason and I’ve found my reason.”
The Judge also acknowledged that it is Teresa and Joe, not Joe Gorga, who “shoulder” most of the responsibility for Teresa’s ailing parents, and she took that into consideration when administering the sentence.
Whoa – even the Judge is slamming Poison!
Judge Salas said that she considered probation “for a moment,” but then felt Teresa needed to feel the effects of her choices. “I think a period of confinement is absolutely necessary in this case,” Judge Salas explained. “I don’t honestly believe that you understand or respect the law. I need to send a message. In the eyes of the law, it doesn’t matter who you are. There are consequences to pay.”
“You need to stop relying on PR. You need to stop relying on CPAs. You need to starting listening and making decisions,” the Judge advised Teresa. The Judge expressed frustration that Teresa appeared to be a savvy businesswoman, but, yet was so clueless about her own financial affairs.
It was the discrepancies between what the prosecutors listed as the couple’s assets and what Teresa and Joe presented to the court that led to the Judge’s decision for Teresa to serve time instead of probation. “If [Teresa] had put something down, anything, I think [probation] would have been fine,” Judge Salas stated. “She put nothing down, nothing.”
Addressing Teresa after handing down the sentence, Judge Salas said, “You, quite frankly, display genuine remorse. At the end of the day, I think you finally got it. You finally woke up.” In addition to the 15 months Teresa was also given a $5,000 fine.
On January 5th when Teresa self-surrenders, she is remanded to show up with $200,000 to go towards the restitution, her attorneys revealed the funds are still being processed.
Teresa has not yet received her prison assignment.
As they left the courthouse, surrounded by security guards, witnesses report that Teresa appeared to be crying. Both Teresa and Joe dodged questions from reporters and got into their SUV.
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman seemed pleased, “It was a fair, appropriate and reasonable sentence, and this office is satisfied,” he said in a brief post-sentencing news conference. Here US Attorney’s official press release on the matter.
As a gentle word of reminder, although Teresa and Joe did indeed break the law, and fully deserve to pay the consequences for that, they are still human beings and it is appropriate to display some compassion, at the very least for their children and families.
TELL US – DO YOU THINK THE SENTENCES WERE FAIR? WILL TERESA COME OUT ON TOP AFTER PRISON?
[Photo Credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images]