New York: Rejecting the prosecution’s demand for a jail term, a federal judge here has sentenced prominent Indian-American hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal to three years probation and a USD 500,000 fine on charges of illegally donating thousands of dollars to political campaigns.
70-year-old Chatwal’s lawyers asked the court to weigh his age and “lifetime of contribution” to others and the impact the imprisonment would have on his family and community in sentencing him.
In court papers, they had requested that a sentence of probation with substantial community service be imposed on Chatwal to enable him to make amends by continuing to serve others and take care of his sons — Vivek and Vikram — who depend on him to an “exceptional degree” due to their medical disabilities.
US District Judge Israel Leo Glasser of Eastern District of New York federal court termed the letters of support for Chatwal, from current and former employees, members of the business community and charitable organisations, as “unusual”, saying it is “quite impressive” that about 272 people and organisations have written about Chatwal’s philanthropy initiatives and a lifetime of helping others in need.
Chatwal, a major fundraiser for likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, had pleaded guilty in April this year to violating the Federal Election Campaign Act by making more than USD 180,000 in campaign donations to three candidates through straw donors and to witness tampering. Prosecutors had asked the judge to impose a 12-18 months sentence on Chatwal that would serve as a “deterrent” to others. Chatwal, accompanied by his wife and son Vikram along with several friends and family members, repeatedly apologised to the judge and said he has no excuse for his behaviour.
“I stand here with a heavy heart. I apologise for what I did to my family. I have let them down terribly,” Chatwal said, reading out from a statement before the judge announced the verdict yesterday. Chatwal said he had been humbled by the experience and cannot apologise enough for his conduct, expressing his gratefulness for the chance to be able to admit his guilt.
“I love this country. I’m so sorry that I broke its laws. I was wrong to try to get around the campaign laws and interfere with the investigation,” he said. After the sentencing hearing, Chatwal told PTI that he is very happy with the verdict. “The judicial system in this country is very fair,” he said adding that he has been working to strengthen the Indo-US relations and people to people contact and will continue to do so.