BANGOR, Maine — A federal judge Monday sentenced the former finance director of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township to a year and a day in federal prison for his role in the misuse of tribal and federal funds during the administration of former Tribal Gov. Robert L. Newell.
James J. Parisi Jr., 47, of Portland was convicted in November on 11 of 21 counts of conspiracy and misapplication of funds after a three-week trial. Newell, who was his co-defendant, was found guilty of 29 of the 30 similar counts.
Newell was sentenced Friday to five years in prison and ordered to pay $1.74 million in restitution. He was convicted of conspiracy and misapplication of tribal and federal funds during his tenure as governor between 2002 and 2006.
U.S. District Judge George Singal sentenced Parisi to three years of supervised release after he completes his sentence and ordered him to pay $1.62 million in restitution.
The judge ordered both men to surrender on May 27 at the federal corrections facilities to be named by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Singal denied a motion that Parisi be allowed to remain free pending his appeal to the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
More than 30 people, including family, friends and members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, attended the three-hour sentencing hearing to show their support for Parisi. Many were visibly disappointed when Singal handed down the sentence. All who spoke urged the judge to sentence Parisi to little or no jail time.
“The question that overhangs this case,” Singal said in sentencing Parisi, “is why an individual of such excellent character entered into and stayed in a job with a government entity saturated with corruption. Midway through this culture of corruption, why did he not leave instead of helping to facilitate these crimes?”
The judge left the questions unanswered, but said the only way it made sense was that Parisi “abandoned his good sense,” and engaged in conduct he wouldn’t ordinarily have undertaken if he’d “thought about it longer and harder.”
Parisi, who is not a member of the tribe, worked as finance director from 2003 to 2006, according to court documents.
Defense attorney George “Toby” Dilworth of Portland said after the three-hour sentencing hearing that his client was grateful Singal did not sentence him to the substantially longer sentence prosecutors had recommended.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Chapman Jr. had asked the judge to sentence Parisi to between four and five years in prison, the recommended prison term under the federal sentencing guidelines. Chapman had recommended Newell be sentenced to between 12½ and 15½ years in prison.