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Bess Myerson Trial Reaching the End

December 13, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ Former Miss America Bess Myerson tried to ″buy justice″ when she gave a city job to the daughter of the judge making rulings in her lover’s divorce, a federal prosecutor charged today.

In closing arguments at U.S. District Court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stuart Abrams said Miss Myerson and her millionaire boyfriend plotted to influence former state Supreme Court Justice Hortense Gabel through her daughter.

″Ladies and gentlemen, it’s not a complicated case,″ said Abrams. ″It’s very simple - it’s a very simple scheme.″

Abrams said Miss Myerson and boyfriend Carl ″Andy″ Capasso decided ″the way to push (Mrs. Gabel’s) buttons, to get out of her what they wanted was through her daughter.″

The prosecution, which began its case in early October, was scheduled to address the jury all day. The case is expected to go to the jury, which heard 10 weeks of testimony, next Monday.

Miss Myerson, once the city’s cultural affairs commissioner, is accused of trying to influence a judge’s rulings in the divorce of her lover by giving a city job to the judge’s daughter.

Miss Myerson, 64, Capasso, 43, and Mrs. Gabel, 75, who made interim rulings in Capasso’s bitter divorce, are charged with conspiracy, fraud and bribe- related charges.

Miss Myerson, who was Miss America 1945, is also charged with obstruction of justice. She faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Her two co-defendants face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Last week, the prosecution rested its case, which is based on circumstantial evidence, after calling 34 witnesses. The defense rested the next day, calling just five witnesses.

The defendants did not testify.

Prosecution witnesses testified that Miss Myerson made secret phone calls to the judge’s chambers, sometimes using an assumed name. Jurors heard how she suddenly became socially close to the judge and her family after two decades of a distant professional acquaintance.

There also was evidence about the hiring of the judge’s daughter, Sukhreet Gabel, in August 1983 a few months after she met Miss Myerson for the first time, and how Capasso’s temporary support payments to his estranged wife, Nancy, were cut the following month from $1,850 a week to $850 a week.

There hasn’t been much said about Capasso, a one-time multimillionaire city contractor.

The main evidence against him was testimony by his former housekeeper, Shirley Harrod, who said Miss Myerson and Capasso were ″very upset″ about the payments Capasso had to make to his estranged wife.

Mrs. Harrod testified that she later saw Capasso throw down documents that looked like divorce papers and say to Miss Myerson: ″Isn’t there something you can do about this?″

But on cross-examination, Mrs. Harrod conceded she was not sure what Capasso and Miss Myerson were discussing and that she only surmised that what Capasso threw down were his divorce papers.

Capasso is serving a three-year prison sentence for tax evasion.

Capasso’s lawyer, Jay Goldberg, asked for an acquittal last week, claiming the government’s case was held together ″by nothing more secure than a rope of sand.″ The judge refused.

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