Pisasale: Judge scathing of disgraced former mayor
AFTER a week spent in the raw confines of an Ipswich Police Watch-house cell just up the road from his old mayoral office, Paul Pisasale was on Wednesday sentenced to a jail term of 7 ½ years for sexual assault, fraud and official corruption crimes.
From ripping-off donated power tools to groping the breasts of a young woman he had enticed to his mayoral rooms, auction frauds, and illegal Chinese erectile medication, his crimes were various and wide-ranging.
Electing not to appear personally for sentence in an Ipswich District courtroom filled with two dozen journalists and a film crew, 69-year-old Pisasale instead appeared via video-link from the watch-house.
Suntanned and dressed in a T-shirt, Pisasale stood when Judge Dennis Lynch QC entered the courtroom at 2.45pm.
Judge Lynch did not keep the convicted former mayor in suspense, immediately telling Pisasale he would be sentenced to a 7 ½ year jail term, and that after he serves 27 months he would be eligible to begin making his application for parole from October 23, 2022.
Pisasale was sentenced for 35 offences committed while mayor of Ipswich.
Judge Lynch said the 25 fraud offences referred to by the Crown prosecution as 'Auction frauds' involved $53,127 paid to community organisations.
While not benefiting him financially, Judge Lynch said Pisasale committed the frauds for "self-promotion".
His pleas involved corruptly receiving benefits between October 2016 and June 2017 in a property development on Warwick Road at Yamanto; and two counts of indecent sexual assault of a woman at Ipswich City Council offices on December 9, 2016.
Referred to as 'donation frauds' committed between 2013 and June 2017, Judge Lynch said Pisasale put a $10,000 donation into his personal bank account, and used a $10,000 donation that was intended to help a senior crime victim put in home security for his own benefit. Another donation of $6000 was also used by Pisasale, with Judge Lynch saying "it was a cynical exploitation of your position".
Judge Lynch found the most serious crimes were his official corruption, and the receiving of secret commissions as agent from a property developer in 2016, with Pisasale to be paid $50,000 in the sale of council owned land that meant a $117,385 loss (in potential value) to Ipswich City Council after the mayor acted to get its price reduced.
Judge Lynch said secret payments of $28,500 were made to him, although in a secretly taped conversation Pisasale "falsely claimed he only received $15,000".
The official corruption offence between October 2016 and June 2017 involved a multimillion-dollar property development where the mayor would have personally benefited.
"Your financial expectation was substantial. Likely in the tens of thousands of dollars," Judge Lynch said as Pisasale sat solemn-faced at a small desk.
He said Pisasale received "discounted sexual services or offers of prostitution" and hospitality with lunches and dinners.
He had also facilitated meetings between developers and council planning staff.
Judge Lynch said Pisasale committed perjury when giving evidence to the Crime and Corruption Commission in May 2017 after being intercepted at Melbourne International Airport with $50,000 cash.
Pisasale had denied that he previously brought such packages but in January 2017 was recorded handing over a package of cash given by a businessman.
Another charge was referred to as the 'Men's Shed fraud' where Pisasale was given pallets of goods worth $55,000 including power tools to distribute to community groups.
Judge Lynch said pallets ended up at his girlfriend's workshop and Pisasale took some of the tools for his own use. Six items remain missing, the court heard.
The judge was scathing of the former mayor's sexual behaviour against a woman then aged 23, saying that despite her objections he persisted for "your own sexual gratification".
Pisasale only met the woman at a function the day before.
Judge Lynch said he followed her around and asked for her Messenger service identity.
He called her and she when she arrived at his mayoral office the following afternoon, Pisasale "showered her with gifts", forcibly kissed her and "forced his tongue inside her mouth" despite her clear resistance.
Judge Lynch said he had the woman put on his mayoral robes and took photos before taking her to a darkened room here he again kissed her and forced his tongue inside her mouth.
Pisasale put his hand inside her shirt, lifted her shirt and fondled her breasts while continuing to try and kiss her.
The court heard he later told his driver to give a false account of what he saw, "and to blame her for acting inappropriately".
Judge Lynch continued to outline the mayor's ongoing offending including 'travel frauds' with two personal trips to Melbourne and Sydney to attend concerts that costs the council $4322.
He was also found with erectile dysfunction medication without a prescription.
Judge Lynch said that although Pisasale lied publicly he has now accepted his guilt and his time in jail had been one of self-reflection since his previous sentence in 2019 for extortion. For that he received a two-year jail term to be suspended after he serves 12 months, a term which is now completed.
Judge Lynch said he recognised he had been driven by ego and self-importance, that he lost his way, and that his conduct such as his illegal use of charitable donations was disgraceful.
The overall 7 ½ year jail sentence included four-year jail terms for receiving secret commissions and official corruption; two-year jail terms for the donations and men's shed frauds; a 12-month jail term for the 25 auction and travel frauds; an 18-month jail term for perjury; and six-month jail sentences for the sexual assaults.
With 68 days in custody declared as time already served, Pisasale was ordered to serve 27 months inside, meaning he will be able to begin his parole application from October 23, 2022.