City & State: For John Haggerty, Home is Where the Hurt Is

Written by City & State on . Posted in Posts.

A lawyer trying to keep his client out of jail should be taken with a big grain of salt. But when Dennis Vacco begged a judge to leave John Haggerty Jr. with his freedom yesterday, his argument encased a hard grain of truth. —

Haggerty stole $750,000 from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2009 re-election campaign to buy out his brother Bart’s share of their family home in Forest Hills Gardens, Queens – the home where their mother died of breast cancer when they were teenagers, and where their father died in 2008.

“It was all about the house,” Vacco said. “The house was all about his desperate attempt to hold onto a family life that had long passed him by.”

As Haggerty sat at the defense table and his brother watched from the gallery, Vacco described a family where they and their sister Marianne grew estranged as they struggled to live without their mother, while their father spent his weeks in Albany.

“He admired his father and looked up to his father,” Vacco told Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Ronald Zweibel. “He was grasping to hold onto some semblance of family.”

Haggerty is the namesake of John “Jack” Haggerty, a legend in Albany. In the 1970s and 1980s he was chief counsel to Warren Anderson, the leader of the Senate Republicans, and essentially ran the political and governmental apparatus for the majority party. The job was technically part-time, but was in practice all-consuming.