July 23, 2008

Habay to Finish Sentence in Halfway House

By Bobby Kerlik, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Jul. 23--Former state Rep. Jeff Habay might not spend any more time in jail after all.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning on Tuesday ordered Habay to serve the remainder of his 6- to 12-month sentence in a halfway house for his conviction of a felony conflict-of-interest charge.

The Shaler Republican has been on house arrest for the past two years while he appealed his conviction. The state Superior Court upheld the verdict and the state Supreme Court declined to hear the case earlier this month.

Manning declined to postpone the sentence pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Manning said Habay, 42, could remain on house arrest until a bed at a halfway house facility opened up. Habay served seven days in the county jail and about two months in a South Side alternative housing facility before he was released in October 2006 pending his appeal.

Habay's loss of elected office, pension and respect of the public have been punishment enough to avoid further jail time, the judge said.

"It would appear to me the message has been sent loud and clear," Manning said.

Manning said he would agree to allow Habay to serve his sentence on house arrest if fellow Judge Lester G. Nauhaus agreed to house arrest for Habay's 4- to 8-month concurrent sentence on separate charges.

Nauhaus declined comment.

"Jeff Habay has paid a very steep price for this," said his attorney, Ken Snarey. "We're very pleased with the judge's ruling."

Habay told Manning he has paid all of his restitution to the state -- roughly $13,000 -- and that he has not violated his house arrest conditions. Snarey asked Manning to consider allowing Habay to leave the halfway house facility for several hours each day to care for his 3-year-old autistic son, while his wife Nubia worked.

Habay declined comment to reporters.

A jury in December 2005 convicted Habay of the conflict of interest charge for using state workers and resources for his political campaigns.

In April 2007, Habay pleaded no contest before Nauhaus to 21 counts, including theft of services and violations of the state Ethics Act. He is scheduled to report to jail Aug. 1 to comply with Nauhaus' sentence, but Snarey said he would ask Nauhaus before then to grant a house arrest sentence.

The six-term lawmaker resigned from the General Assembly on Feb. 8, 2006.

Habay sparked an anthrax scare in 2003 by claiming political foe George Radich mailed him white powder, which turned out to be baking soda. Radich was one of several constituents who asked for an audit of Habay's campaign finances.

Radich said yesterday he hoped Nauhaus would send the former legislator to jail.

"To me the witness intimidation and white powder in the second case is bigger," said Radich, 48. "There's people doing hard time in prison for mailing white powder. Habay caused an anthrax scare during the height of it all. He's not above the law."

Radich's wife formerly worked for Habay.


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