Paul Pisasale arrives to the District Court in Brisbane, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. A Jury found Pisasale guilty of extortion.
Paul Pisasale arrives to the District Court in Brisbane, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. A Jury found Pisasale guilty of extortion.

Former 'Mr Ipswich' Paul Pisasale sentenced to 7.5 years

UPDATE: Corrupt ex-Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale will spend the next two years behind bars after being jailed for more than seven years for fraud, corruption and sexual assault he committed while in the city's highest office.

The 69-year-old was on Wednesday sentenced to a total of seven-and-a-half years' jail by Ipswich District Court Judge Dennis Lynch for 35 criminal charges arising out of a Crime and Corruption Commission investigation into the popular Queensland mayor.

Pisasale sensationally pleaded guilty to 27 counts of fraud in the Brisbane District Court on August 11.

He was handed sentences of four years' jail for the charges of official corruption and receiving a secret commission and a variety of other sentences for charges of fraud, perjury, unlawful possession of sex drugs and sex assault.

He will be eligible for parole in October 2022, after the court took into consideration his age, pleas of guilty and the steps Pisasale had made to "right his wrongs".

In his sentencing, Judge Lynch said Pisasale had engaged in sustained corrupt activity during his time as mayor, including using charity funds to buy items for himself and in 2015, keeping money that was donated to install security screens on the home of an elderly victim of crime.

Pisasale also organised for charity items that were intended for local men's sheds to be delivered to his girlfriend's business and kept others for himself, the court today heard.

"Your misuse of these funds was a gross abuse as a trusted leader of Ipswich," Judge Lynch told Pisasale, who appeared in court via video link from jail on Wednesday.

He told the 69-year-old he had engaged in sustained exploitation "for your own enrichment."

The court heard while holding the office of mayor, Pisasale engaged in dodgy deals with a developer in 2015, saying he would promote a project in exchange for sexual services and more than $28,000 cash.

The court heard Pisasale in December 2016 sexually assaulted a 23-year-old woman he met at a function at a local employment firm.

"At the function you continually followed the victim around, engaged her in conversation, took her photograph... in your speech you singled her out and mentioned working closely with her in future projects," Judge Lynch said, adding Pisasale later contacted the woman and invited her on a tour of the council chambers where he "showered her with gifts".

During the tour, he sexually assaulted the 23-year-old in a function room at the council offices by kissing her and touching her breasts before putting his mayoral robes on her and taking pictures.

"All the while she was expressing her unwillingness and protesting at your advances," Judge Lynch said.

"You forcibly kissed her, putting your tongue into her mouth."

Pisasale later twice tried convince his driver to "give a false account" of what happened to the police, instead blaming the woman.

"Although you claim to have honestly believed she was consenting to your advances, no reasonable basis existed for that belief. Her attempts to reject your attentions should have made that abundantly clear to you.

"This conduct was persistent and involved the abuse of the authority of your position as mayor for your own sexual satisfaction."

In sentencing, Judge Lynch said he was convinced Pisasale's remorse was genuine and that he had committed the offences after he "lost his moral compass" and became "driven by ego".

"As well as pleading guilty, you have now publicly acknowledged the full extent of your wrongdoing," Judge Lynch said.

"... It is difficult to reconcile your past record of charitable conduct and compassion toward the disadvantaged with your disgraceful, calculated exploitation of persons trusting you with their charitable donations..."

A charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice was discontinued.

Pisasale had remained behind bars awaiting sentencing since last Thursday after he sensationally told Judge Dennis Lynch after entering his guilty pleas that his "obsession" for popularity and "ego" caused him to spiral out of control.

The 69-year-old said as the city grew and he achieved more success, more people sought his attention.

"Some of the most influential people from all over the world would seek my advice, they wanted me to speak and attend functions," Pisasale said, saying he hid his multiple sclerosis from the public.

"My mind and ego took over and my behaviour was out of control now. I wanted more and more boosts in my popularity. People around me tried to talk to me, I would not listen. I was driven by my obsession and I failed everyone."

Ms Farnden had argued Pisasale's offending "does effectively take significantly away from and substantially undermines all the good things … (he) did for Ipswich".

But defence barrister David Jones said while his client had committed the offences "the past and the good he has done can't be stripped off him".

Pisasale was in 2019 convicted of extortion of a Sydney taxi driver and sentenced to two years' jail, which was suspended after he served one year in jail.

Pisasale's suspended sentence had been served by last July, but he has remained in prison.

- Alexandria Utting, Kelmeny Fraser

 

EARLIER: IN A RARE example of openness towards the media, the Ipswich District Court has allowed a television camera to capture today's sentencing of disgraced former mayor Paul Pisasale.

This afternoon's sentence will cap off three years of turmoil for the city of Ipswich, which began with Pisasale's shock public resignation at St Andrew's Hospital in June 2017.

It would later emerge that the CCC had raided the then-mayor's office and home the previous day, as it zeroed its probe in on his corrupt activities.

 

Former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale (centre) arrives at the Brisbane Magistrates Court in Brisbane, Wednesday, August 23, 2017. (AAP Image/Darren England)
Former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale (centre) arrives at the Brisbane Magistrates Court in Brisbane, Wednesday, August 23, 2017. (AAP Image/Darren England)

 

Pisasale, who previously pleaded guilty to more than 30 charges including official corruption; sexual assault; and unlawful possession of restricted drugs, is listed to be sentenced today at 2.45pm.

The 69-year-old had pleaded guilty to multiple dishonesty offences in the Brisbane District Court on August 11, but the court put a suppression order on the reporting of that guilty plea until last Thursday, when Pisasale pleaded guilty to further charges of sexual assault.

Pisasale's guilty plea in the Ipswich District Court came after he struck a deal with prosecutors just days ahead of his trial, which had been listed to begin on September 21.

 

The front page of the QT the day after ex-Mayor Paul Pisasale resigned in 2017.
The front page of the QT the day after ex-Mayor Paul Pisasale resigned in 2017.

 

The sexual assault offence involved the then-mayor showing a woman, who was not a council employee, around the council chambers in December 2016.

 

Pisasale secretly pleads guilty to corruption, sex assault

'Darkest periods of my life': Disgraced Pisasale apologises

 

Police alleged Pisasale indecently assaulted the woman after putting his mayoral robes on her.

He also pleaded guilty to 27 counts of fraud, one count of receiving a secret commission, one count of official corruption and fraud of property subject to a direction.

The official corruption charge centred on a Yamanto development Pisasale corruptly agreed to champion.

Police alleged Pisasale had received meals and had prostitutes arranged for him in connection with the development.

Pisasale has already served jail time after being convicted of two counts of extortion last year.


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