Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Leona Helmsley: 'The Queen of Mean'

Leona Stands Alone

Leona & Harry Helmsley, 1984
Leona & Harry Helmsley, 1984

When the government indicted the Helmsleys in the late 1980s, many believed that they would finally get what they deserved, time behind bars. Considering the charges, a long jail term was highly likely. Aside from tax-fraud, the Helmsleys were charged with mail fraud for sending the fraudulent invoices through the postal service, conspiracy to defraud the government and extortion for trying to bilk contractors and vendors out of money, services and goods. The crimes could draw a total of more than one hundred years and considerable fines, if they were found guilty.

The Helmsleys' enemies were hoping they would receive the maximum sentence.  However, justice wouldn't come as quickly as some would have wanted. For the time being, those who sought retribution were forced to wait.   

Following the Helmsleys' indictment in 1988, where they plead not guilty for the crimes charged against them, little action took place legally. The trial, which was originally scheduled for September 1988, was continuously postponed due to constant motions filed by the Helmsleys' attorneys. Finally, the trial was set for June of the following year. It gave lawyers on both sides a little more than a year to work on their cases. In the meantime, the Helmsleys waited patiently and continued on with their lives as best they could.

During the fifteen-month interval, five different doctors assessed Harry to establish whether he was physically and mentally fit to stand trial. He had already suffered from a pre-existing heart condition and had more recently had a mild stroke. Moreover, his mental faculties began to falter. It was not surprising, being that he was seventy-nine-years-old. After countless tests, it was determined that Harry was not fit enough to stand trial due to memory deterioration. From that moment on, Leona was required to face a jury without her partner.


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