Image: Crane collapse in New York City
Dima Gavrysh  /  AP
Rescue workers look through wreckage after a construction crane collapsed on New York's Upper East Side on May 30, 2008. It was the second deadly crane accident in 2 1/2 months in the city.
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updated 6/16/2010 2:25:27 PM ET 2010-06-16T18:25:27

The city's former chief crane inspector apologized at his sentencing Wednesday for taking bribes to fake inspection and licensing exam results and said other inspectors didn't deserve the notoriety he brought them.

James Delayo was sentenced in Manhattan state Supreme Court to two to six years in prison for taking more than $10,000 in payoffs.

"I'd like to apologize to the city in general for letting them down ... and to my family especially and the Buildings Department who do a difficult job and don't get recognition," Delayo said.

Looking gaunt and often coughing, the 61-year-old Delayo commended other inspectors for the difficult and important work they do, saying, "They don't deserve the bad publicity I brought them."

The charges against Delayo — filed in 2008 — stemmed from a crackdown on corruption in the construction industry that began after two deadly crane collapses that killed nine people.

Justice Thomas Farber said imposing the sentence was difficult because of Delayo's work supervising the crane operations at ground zero after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"It is with some degree of sadness I impose this sentence because I recognize Mr. Delayo is a man who is quite ill, partly due to what can be described as heroism," Farber said.

But the judge added that the bribe-taking "crime itself was an extraordinary betrayal of public trust."

Defense attorney David Oddo said Delayo had developed severe pulmonary illnesses as a result of his work at the World Trade Center site.

Farber made a note that Delayo not be deprived of the "substantial medication" he takes for his condition, which includes asbestosis.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said Delayo was entrusted by the city to ensure the safety of workers and the public.

"He failed to do so, forgoing public safety for greed and putting countless lives at risk," Vance said.

Delayo pleaded guilty earlier this year to receiving bribes for falsifying crane inspections. Nu-Way Crane Service Inc. and company official Michael Sackaris pleaded guilty to bribery, acknowledging they paid Delayo more than $10,000 to fake results for inspections that were never conducted and to certify that Nu-Way workers had passed crane operator tests at least one of them never took. That employee, Michael Pascalli, pleaded guilty to a false-filing charge.

The charges followed two deadly collapses of another company's cranes in 2008. The Nu-Way case involved smaller cranes and wasn't linked to the collapses, but it contributed to questions about the city's oversight of construction cranes.

The city has since added crane inspectors, increased training requirements and changed how licensing exams are given to some crane operators.

A lawyer for Copiague, N.Y.-based Nu-Way said in court that the company "conferred numerous bribes" on Delayo from 2000 to 2008. The payouts ranged from $200 to $3,000 apiece, prosecutors said.

Delayo started working for the city Department of Buildings in 1982, rising to become its acting head of crane inspections in 2008. He retired later that year.

A crane-rigging contractor has been charged with manslaughter in one of the fatal collapses, while a crane owner and a former mechanic face manslaughter charges in the other. Besides Delayo, another former crane inspector faces charges including tampering with public records after being accused of lying about examining one of the fallen cranes 11 days before it collapsed.

All have pleaded not guilty.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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