Beloff's Wife Makes Guilty Plea Gets Probation For Two Years

Posted: July 26, 1988

Diane Beloff, the wife of imprisoned former City Councilman Leland M. Beloff, was placed on two years' probation yesterday after pleading guilty to charges of forging the signatures of three women on absentee-ballot envelopes in the November 1984 election.

Clutching a handkerchief, Beloff, 29, spoke so softly during the brief hearing that she was barely audible as she finally said "Guilty" when a courtroom deputy asked how she pleaded.

She was in tears when she left the courtroom later.

In an interview, Beloff said she decided to plead guilty only after trying without success to persuade the prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Carr Jr., to drop the charges.

"I begged. I cried," said Beloff, who said she felt strongly that she would have been acquitted if she had gone to trial.

She said she also wanted to avoid the effect that emotional turmoil of a trial would have on their two children, ages 6 and 9.

Three months ago, her husband pleaded guilty to vote-fraud charges and was sentenced to three years in prison to run concurrently with the 10-year sentence he is serving on federal extortion charges.

Yesterday, Diane Beloff pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of violating the federal civil rights statute by forging the signatures on three absentee-ballot envelopes and thereby depriving Philadelphians of their right not to have their votes diluted by fraudulent ballots.

In return, Carr agreed to the dismissal of the four felony charges lodged when she was indicted, along with her husband and two others, in October 1986.

Carr also agreed to withhold a sentencing recommendation. The maximum sentence she could have received was a prison term of three years and a fine of $3,000.

Her attorney, Robert F. Simone, argued for leniency. He said he had visited Leland Beloff last week at the federal prison camp at Loretto, near Altoona, and that Beloff had asked him to express to the court his own plea for leniency for his wife.

"He seems to feel that he's responsible for the actions of his wife in this case," said Simone.

Simone also said that because of her husband's imprisonment, Diane Beloff was the sole custodian of their two young children and already had suffered extensively because of her husband's legal difficulties.

"She's really been through the mill already," said Simone. "She's been devoted to him through some very tough times."

U.S. District Judge Thomas N. O'Neill Jr. agreed. "I find myself in agreement with your presentation, Mr. Simone," said O'Neill before ordering the probation term.

The Beloffs and two other South Philadelphians who were active in Democratic politics - Charles Pollan and Margaret M. Coyle, both of whom were members of the City Democratic Committee - were accused in the indictment of participating in a conspiracy to forge absentee ballots during that election.

Pollan pleaded guilty in August 1987 to 27 counts of election fraud and is now serving a three-year prison sentence. Coyle pleaded guilty in the fall of 1986 and agreed to cooperate in the investigation. She has not yet been sentenced.

The indictment focused on the 11th, 26th and 34th Divisions of South Philadelphia's 39th Ward, where Leland Beloff was Democratic leader and Diane Beloff was an elected committeewoman.

Carr said the FBI had "positively identified" Diane Beloff's handwriting in two of the signatures she was accused of forging.

Leland Beloff and his longtime aide, Robert Rego, were convicted in July 1987 of participating in a conspiracy to extort $1 million from developer Willard G. Rouse 3d, $50,000 from a second developer and the free use of a luxury apartment from a third developer.

Rego, who was sentenced to eight years, and Beloff began serving their sentences in separate federal prison camps on April 26.

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