NEW YORK (AP) — A former campaign treasurer for a New York City official who aspired to be the city's first Asian-American mayor was sentenced to 10 months in prison Thursday after telling a judge she never intended to do wrong when she joined a campaign that she thought would "make history."
U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan sentenced Jia "Jenny" Hou, 27, to less than a year in prison, saying he hoped her May conviction for attempted wire fraud, obstructing justice and making false statements would not lead to her deportation. The Queens resident moved to the United States from China when she was 11.
The judge also sentenced her co-defendant — former fundraiser Xing "Oliver" Wu Pan — to four months in prison after the 47-year-old Mendham, N.J., resident was convicted of conspiracy and attempted wire fraud at the same Manhattan trial.
Sullivan said prison sentences were necessary because the crimes were "about undermining the electoral process." He said such activity shakes the public's confidence in elections and "makes people shrug and say the system is corrupt."
Hou and Pan were swept up in an FBI sting investigation that focused on financing within the campaign of City Comptroller John Liu, who was never charged and has vehemently denied he was in on an alleged conspiracy to get around donation limits. Prosecutors had said the pair plotted to circumvent a $4,950 contribution limit by using straw donors, people recruited to funnel other people's money, so they could boost Liu's campaign war chest.
Liu continued his denunciation of the government's tactics Thursday, saying in a statement that for reasons he may never understand, prosecutors "set out to destroy me with what has been described as an extraordinarily intrusive and exhaustive investigation."
"Failing to find that I had done anything wrong, they proceeded to set up a weak man and a wonderful young woman. Jenny Hou does not deserve this ordeal and injustice she has been put through. I am very sad but even more angry at what has occurred. The U.S. Attorney's Office was wrong and should not be proud of its conduct," he said.
Prior to the announcement of her sentence, a tearful Hou defended herself, saying she still maintains her innocence but believes she "should have been far more aware than I was."
"In hindsight, if I did not see the forest for the trees, that is a failing for which I will pay with the rest of my life," Hou said.
She conceded she was too inexperienced when she accepted the job in 2011 at age 24, but was pleased that the job would enable her to visit her ailing grandparents in China.
"I wanted to be part of a campaign that would once again make history," she said. "What I lacked was experience in life, and that lack of life experience meant that I did not have the judgment evidently required to step back and say, 'hey, what is really going on here?'"
Associated Press Writer Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.