Sentencing Delayed for Former City Official

11:48 PM, Nov 13, 2012   |    comments
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Video: Timothy Wanamaker Walking into Court

Timothy Wanamaker

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Prior to his scheduled sentencing Tuesday for his admitted theft of city funds, an attorney for Timothy Wanamaker, who was Executive Director of the City of Buffalo's Office of Strategic Planning from 2004 until 2008, filed an 11th hour motion for leniency for his client.

It was a motion which prosecutors seemed to be in agreement with, and it appeared Wanamaker was likely to be sentenced to as little as probation.

However, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara adjourned the sentencing until December in order to consider the request.

Arcara was unsatisfied with prosecutors explanations of how essential Wanamaker's cooperation was in terms of uncovering other possible misdeeds at City Hall, at one point demanding "straight answers" from prosecutors, to prove to him the amount of co-operation Wanamaker gave federal officials warranted leniency.

This was because in May prosecutors filed a motion opposing a downward departure from federal sentencing guidelines for Wanamaker, only to reverse course in October.

"What happened between May and October?" Arcara demanded to know. 

"We were convinced his level of cooperation and the information he provided was sufficient,"  Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Campana told the judge.

However, when Campana (despite the judge's repeated inquiries) hesitated to provide further details on the extent of Wanamaker's "cooperation", or to shed much light on any ongoing investigations in open court, the Judge granted him time to file the information in a sealed affidavit. "If the investigation is over," said Judge Arcara, "you better say so because those people in city hall don't deserve to work under a cloud if there is none."

"I'm not looking  for reasons not to do this (grant leniency)," Arcara said from the bench. "I'm looking for reasons that are valid to do so."

Wanamaker admitted just under one year ago, that he improperly used a credit card provided to him for official business for a wide range of non-work related expenses. Campana, in court, confirmed the amount of misappropriated money was approximately $27,000.

A defendant's sentencing memorandum, filed within the past week by Wanamaker's attorney James Harrington, includes a section entitled "Fall From Grace", in which Harrington writes:  

His down fall came because he foolishly used a credit card provided to him for official city business for personal expenses. This was
not only a breach of trust on his part, it was out of character for him. Before and after this, he has always led a law abiding and hardworking life. His lack of personal money was no excuse. He makes no excuses and blames only himself. He's lost his career in urban planning... He put his marriage in jeopardy. Fortunately his wife is sticking with him and supporting him, like he supported her in her fight with breast cancer this past year. He has publicly humiliated himself and his family here and across the country.

Another section of the same court document, entitled "Starting Over", states:

When Tim was contacted by the federal law enforcement agents, he agreed to cooperate with them. He believed this was part of the way he had to atone for what he had done. There were no formal charges filed against him at that time. He voluntarily, and at his own expense, traveled from Virginia to Buffalo on two separate occasions to meet with prosecutors and agents. He was also interviewed by telephone. He provided whatever information he had and responded to all of their questions.

It appears that whatever cooperation Wanamaker extended to authorities may not have been enough to make a case against anyone else in city government. But in the sentencing memorandum, Harrington suggests this should not be used as an argument against leniency.

"As the Court is aware, initially, the Assistant United States Attorney filed a notice with the Court that his office was not
filing a motion seeking a reduction (in sentencing). After further discussion and consideration, however, a motion has been filed with the Court. This reflects that Tim did whatever he could, whether it
resulted in prosecutions of others or not..

According to Harrington, Wanamaker is trying to rebuild his life and career.

"After Tim's plea and loss of his job, he was depressed and full of self-loathing for what he had done to himself and his family. To his credit, he knew he could not let them down or stop fighting. He initially took a job at Kmart earning $8.75 per hour stocking shelves. He was then hired as an auto salesman for Malloy Auto Group in Woodbridge, Virginia where he works on a combination of salary and commissions. Perhaps the truest measure of one's character is how he responds to adversity and picks himself up when down, especially from his own actions. Tim swallowed his pride and started over. He recognizes the dignity in all types of work. He is thankful that he was hired in his current jobs after what he had done."

Harrington concludes by suggesting that a fair sentence for Wanamaker would be 0 to 6 months in prison, and full restitution to the City of Buffalo.

Letters from a few of Wanamaker's business associates and co-workers, urging the judge to be lenient, were also included in the latest court filings.

Click on the video player above the story to watch our report from 2 On Your Side's Dave McKinley and Photojournlist Bill Boyer.

Click here to read Dave McKinley's blogs.

Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2

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