Ex-surgeon general in plea deal

Associated Press

. -- Former Surgeon General Antonia Novello pleaded guilty Friday to a felony in a deal with prosecutors to avoid prison time for forcing state employees to handle personal chores when she was New York's health commissioner.

The plea deal calls for 250 hours of community service at an Albany health clinic, $22,500 in restitution and a $5,000 fine. Novello faced up to 12 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

She was accused of costing taxpayers $48,000 by misusing the workers.

She pleaded guilty to filing a false document involving a worker's duties.

Investigators said Novello used state workers to chauffeur her on shopping trips and rearrange heavy furniture at her apartment while she was New York's top health official. She now lives in Florida.

In court Friday, Albany County Judge Stephen Herrick asked Novello if she had intended to defraud the state. After a pause, she said, "Yes, Your Honor."

Novello, who declined any other comment, is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 14. As a condition of the deal, she could face 1 1/3 to four years in prison if she commits another felony within three years.

Novello was paid $256,000 a year as Republican Gov. George Pataki's health commissioner from 1999 to 2006. She was surgeon general under President George H.W. Bush from 1990 to 1993.

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