'Ray Donovan' Producer Bryan Zuriff Sentenced
UPDATED: He admitted that he had placed sports bets on behalf of himself and others on illegal gambling websites.
Bryan Zuriff, an executive producer on Showtime's Ray Donovan, has escaped prison time.
A judge sentenced Zuriff to six months of home confinement, two years of probation, 300 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine. The announcement came from U.S. District Court Judge Jesse Furman at a hearing in a New York courtroom on Monday.
Zuriff was one of 34 people indicted this past April for his role in a high-stakes sports-betting enterprise with alleged connections to the Russian mafia. In July, Zuriff became the first person from this group to plead guilty. In legal papers, he admitted getting caught up with co-defendants Hillel Nahmad and Illya Trincher, although he maintained that he wasn't aware of any mob connections.
At the hearing, Zuriff apologized for his actions and said a "silver lining" was that the arrest allowed him the opportunity to address his gambling addiction. He revealed he has been in intensive therapy for the past seven months.
In arguing for probation, his attorney said his affiliation with Ray Donovan was at risk and a harsh sentence would have adverse repercussions for series. The attorney also pointed to press coverage, saying he had suffered enough.
Furman agreed with prosecutors that what Zuriff did was not a "victimless crime," but while acknowledging that "prison wouldn't serve any purpose here" and that the letters submitted by Zuriff and by others on his behalf showed that he took responsibility for what he had done and didn't blame others, the judge said that more than "a slap on the wrist" was warranted. (Hence the home confinement.) His family was in the courtroom. He was trailed by a photographer on his way out.
According to attorneys for Zuriff, who broke into Hollywood as a talent manager for stars like Elisabeth Shue, Chris Noth and Brent Spiner, their client opened a "sports book" account on unlawful Internet gambling sites and accepted wagers on behalf of Nahmad and others. Zuriff met Nahmad through social relationships developed after teaming with fellow Ray Donovan producer Mark Gordon -- a "newfound friendship [that] was exciting, and Bryan did all he could to fit in with his new companions," said the legal papers.
Zuriff has had a gambling problem since childhood, said his attorneys, and took a portion of the gambling proceeds as well as Nahmad and Trincher's " inside information as a guide to help him place his own wagers."
But in April, he was arrested. Zuriff called the moment "the biggest wake-up call of my life" and penned a letter to the judge begging him to consider his "transformation" and a promise "that nothing like this will ever happen again."
He was supported by others in Hollywood including Judd Apatow, Lone Survivor director Peter Berg and Ray Donovan star Jon Voight, who wrote their own letters requesting mercy.
As part of Zuriff's plea deal, the Ray Donovan producer was facing a possible prison stay of six to 12 months. (In addition, he agreed to forfeit $500,000.) Zuriff's attorneys urged the judge to impose a noncustodial sentence, saying probation would be sufficient.
In response, U.S. District Attorney Preet Bharara pointed to wiretaps that had captured Zuriff booking bets for others, including for one individual who had just gotten out of rehabilitation and allegedly was taken advantage of. The prosecutor said that Zuriff's access to illegal gambling websites had made him "a sought-after connection in the illegal sports gambling world," that Zuriff's conduct happened over many years and that Zuriff personally booked bets totaling several millions of dollars.
In recommending six to 12 months of imprisonment, the prosecutor told the judge, "Despite Zuriff's intelligence, upbringing and education, he was still not deterred from entering the illegal world of gambling. As such, a Guidelines sentence would serve to deter both the defendant and the public at large."
Zuriff took a leave of absence from Ray Donovan to "protect" the show from negative publicity, he said, but returned to the show as a consultant. He is said to have had a hand in the upcoming second season and has recently been working on a Todd Phillips movie to be filmed in the summer of 2014, the Aaron Sorkin-penned Steve Jobs movie and a number of other TV and film projects.