Disgraced former politician Pamela Harris will have to wait until next Wednesday to learn whether or not she’ll see the inside of a cell.
Brooklyn federal court judge Jack Weinstein had been scheduled to sentence Harris Friday for defrauding FEMA out of approximately $25,000 following Superstorm Sandy.
Yet after Harris sobbed and asked for a second chance, the 97-year-old jurist decided he needed a little more time — and told her to come back in five days.
“I’m not prepared to make the critical decision in this case at the moment,” Weinstein said. “I’ve reflected on this for some time. It’s a unique, very difficult case.”
Prior to the surprise twist, Harris begged the judge for leniency, standing and wringing her hands as she said she stole funds from FEMA because she was “scared.”
The terrified woman spent the money on a hot tub, a sauna, lingerie, and vacations, per court papers.
“I am just so sorry,” the onetime Assemblywoman said through tears. “I just ask that you please allow me a chance to make this right. I know I can, I’m not fighting back.”
Tears streaming down her face, Harris said she knew that filing forged documents claiming she needed government assistance was wrong — but that she was just worried about her kids.
“I wanted a place for them to go to,” the democrat sniffled. “I got nervous and scared when Hurricane Sandy hit. I thought I was gonna lose them.”
Meanwhile prosecutors, who have asked the judge to sentence Harris to more than three years, characterized her as a “clever fraudster.”
“She characterizes what she did as being essentially confused,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Paulsen told the court. “You can’t get confused and inadvertently forge a lease, or forge somebody’s signature.”
Harris’ defense attorney Joel Cohen admitted Friday that “there is no question that the conduct is corrupt,” but said his client did everything with the best intentions.
“We think clearly she doesn’t belong in the Assembly or with her hands on non-profit finances,” Cohen shrugged as he argued for a non-jail sentence. “But people who’ve fallen need to be helped up again.”
The lawyer also reminded the court that Harris had at one point been homeless, married young, and lost a four-year-old daughter.
Harris declined comment as she left court alongside her husband, and will return next Wednesday to learn her fate.