NYT: Hotelier Avoids Prison for Violating Campaign Finance Laws

Originally posted at The New York Times.

A Democratic fund-raiser and high-profile hotelier, Sant Singh Chatwal, who had pleaded guilty to skirting federal campaign-finance laws and witness tampering, avoided being sent to prison on Thursday, despite facing a possible sentence of more than five years.

Judge I. Leo Glasser, of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, sentenced Mr. Chatwal to three years of probation. The judge described Mr. Chatwal’s crimes as an “aberrance,” and seemed swayed by the 272 letters written on his behalf; by the argument that his grown sons needed Mr. Chatwal’s help at home; and by the fact that Mr. Chatwal did not seem to personally benefit from his campaign contributions.

Mr. Chatwal, 70, is the president of Hampshire Hotels and Resorts, and his business consists of 12 hotels and 36 restaurants and bars. He leads a lively social life, as seen in the New York Magazine feature on his son Vikram’s wedding and in state dinners at the White House.

He pleaded guilty in April to sending more than $180,000 in campaign contributions from 2007 to 2011 to three federal candidates, identified as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Representative Kendrick B. Meek of Florida. There is a limit on how much individuals can contribute to campaigns, so Mr. Chatwal devised an illegal straw donor scheme, prosecutors said, asking acquaintances to give, then reimbursing them.

Without money, “nobody will even talk to you,” Mr. Chatwal said of politicians in recordings made by the government.

The plea agreement initially called for a sentence of 46 to 57 months, based on federal guidelines. On Thursday, new calculations — based on a lower offense level — called for a sentence of 15 to 21 months.

Prosecutors, in their sentencing memorandum, said the defense’s attempt to get a lighter sentence served “to perpetuate the corrosive perception that there is one set of rules for the rich and powerful, and another for everyone else.”

The witness-tampering charge came from instructions Mr. Chatwal gave to a government cooperator not to tell the government the truth about the campaign contributions.

Mr. Chatwal’s lawyer, Jonathan S. Sack, said the recordings showed only that Mr. Chatwal was sanguine about the political process. “In order to participate in the political system and have relationships with elected officials, one makes contributions,” he said.

His lawyers also noted that his grown sons, Vivek, 39, and Vikram, 42, were “dependent on their parents — in particular, on their father,” they wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Vikram Chatwal, a former model and actor who has dated celebrities like Gisele Bündchen and now works in the hotel business, “while able to pursue business interests when healthy, has suffered from severe alcohol and drug dependence for more than a decade,” the submission read.

Vivek Chatwal, whose wedding at the Tavern on the Green was attended by Bill and Hillary Clinton and Senator Charles E. Schumer, is afflicted with a disease or problem that was excised from the sentencing memorandum, but requires treatment by psychiatrists. “Vivek cannot be left alone,” the document noted, explaining that he is brought daily to Mr. Chatwal’s office where he or an employee watches him.

Prosecutors said that Mr. Chatwal’s family circumstances were not enough to justify a lighter sentence. In their sentencing memorandum, they described Mr. Chatwal as “intoxicated by proximity” to people with power, and argued that the public deserved transparency in their electoral process.

Judge Glasser seemed to take the position that the electoral process had become more opaque in recent years. He pointed to two recent articles in The New York Times that discussed how hidden donors were influencing the political process, along with the recent Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United and McCutcheon, as evidence of how much had changed since the law that Mr. Chatwal was charged with violating was passed in the 1970s.

In Mr. Chatwal’s case, “the amount which is involved pales in the light of the multimillion-dollar contributions being made regularly” through political action committees, Judge Glasser said.

Along with his probation, Mr. Chatwal was also fined $500,000 and must perform 1,000 hours of community service.

Read more at The New York Times.


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  • Bill Beveridge says:

    June 19, 2015 at 3:15 PM

    It seems like The Clintons are involved in a lot of illegal activities. How is it possible that she, Hillary, can run for any office? She should be behind bars. You know she was behind what this guy and several others have done to finance her crooked political lifestyle and yet they prosecute everyone but her. What a joke our political system is becoming. Impeach her before she can do any more damage

    • Kay says:

      June 21, 2015 at 12:01 PM

      it’s obvious the Justice Department has to do what they are told, therefore liberal/leftists get a pass for kissing butt and conservative Republicans get to go to detention centers for speaking their minds. The DOJ is a political machine of El Presidente. There’s much more to come folks, we haven’t seen it all. Watch for 2016. More to come!

  • Neysa Kiby says:

    June 19, 2015 at 3:33 PM

    It seems as though Judge Glasser is ‘intoxicated by proximity’.
    If “In Mr. Chatwal’s case, “the amount which is involved pales in the light of the multimillion-dollar contributions being made regularly” through political action committees” is the judges’s stance, then Mr D’Souza’s amount is opaque in he light when compared to Mr Chatwal’s case.
    Judicial ineptness functioning solely on political narcissism.
    What a Putz for a Judge.

  • C Deen says:

    June 19, 2015 at 8:12 PM

    Aaaaahhh, of course, blame it on the East Asian culture of not letting your grown children make their own way in the big, bad Western world. And, of course, bribery is the only way Mr. Chatwal knows how to accomplish anything. Another ingrained trait because of your corrupt culture. What about the millions of others of your countrymen who have made honest and profitable successes of themselves without the aid of dirty politicians like Clinton. By the way, you should be ashamed to still be passing yourself off as a Shikh. You are a disgrace to this honorable set of beliefs. Shame on you and your despicable family!! Sorry Dinesh, no offence intended. Thank you for exposing the blatant corruption and greed of Clinton and her hedonistic self serving agenda. That goes for her lying cronies, also, like this guy. Ugh! You make me ill.

  • Randall Burke says:

    June 20, 2015 at 10:16 AM

    Thanks,Dinesh, for exposing the corruption of activist judges who continue to enable this culture of cronyism–a truly demotivating factor that promotes a truly negative and understandable pessimism on the part of the electorate. I’ve been talking with my landlord, and he says, “Republican, Democrat –they’re all the same.” I point out that there are some true conservatives. He is understandably pessimistic, and thinks we should just look out for #1–that the rest is a waste of time. I can understand, though I disagree, as we get a double -dose of this corruption in our liberal state of California–where, as you’re well aware, we suffer everything from the govt. crackdown against fracking, the investment in a fiscally unsound “bullet train” and inefficient solar subsidies to a federally and state-imposed draconian water policy that is sending millions of acres of dam water out to the ocean to “punish” the largely conservative-based Central Valley while creating further dependence on Big Brother government. Do you have some encouragement for this public school teacher (me) who is on the front lines and in the arena and trying to “dare greatly” in in a culture of political correctness and subservience to a failed socialistic model? Thanks again, Dinesh
    Your life example, alone is inspiring.


    June 20, 2015 at 11:39 AM


  • William Hemphill says:

    June 20, 2015 at 12:06 PM

    Mr. D’Souza, yes Mr. Chatwal did get a much lighter sentence than you, but the important issue is not who got the lightest sentence but rather; during the sentencing who changed or positively affected the most lives Our Maker does act in mysterious ways!

  • J L ROHR says:

    June 20, 2015 at 4:09 PM

    Thank You, keep the Good going.

  • Barbara says:

    June 20, 2015 at 7:03 PM

    1. The media celebrates the Bruce/Caitlyn sick transgenderation (my word) while telling Tim Tebow to keep his opinions to himself.

    2. You got a harsher sentence because you belong to the wrong political party!

  • earlene leonard says:

    June 20, 2015 at 10:09 PM

    why did the kid get married if he can not be left alone…. what woman would feel safe with him ..had to be arranged and I bet the woman is not happy to be paired with him if he is like the article indicates..