Sixth Congressional District candidate Jeff Gottlieb’s spokesman on Wednesday confirmed the accuracy of a New York Post story that said Gottlieb pleaded guilty to criminal mischief 40 years ago after setting his own apartment on fire in 1971, using gasoline as an accelerant.
The article, which appeared on Sunday, said Gottlieb, now 70, was charged with second-degree arson, a felony, but then pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal mischief. The fire destroyed his Flushing apartment and damaged several others in the building. No one was hurt, the Post’s sources said.
A teacher at Benjamin Cardozo High School at the time, Gottlieb took an unpaid leave for “restoration of health” from April 15, 1972 until the end of that school year. He was treated at a psychiatric hospital and never imprisoned for the crime.
Gottlieb eventually retired from teaching and has served in a number of political positions since, most recently as a clerk at the Board of Elections, a job he is required to leave in order to run for office.
Gottlieb is in a six-way primary contest to be the Democratic nominee for the 6th Congressional District. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens, Nassau), who now holds the seat, said he would not run again after the district was reconfigured following the Census.
Whoever wins the primary will face City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), the presumptive Republican nominee.
Jay Golub, Gottlieb’s spokesman, said he believes the Post story was accurate.
“This is something that happened 40 years ago,” Golub said. “He made a mistake, and I think he’s lived his life the last 40 years in a manner that most people would be confident in supporting him for office.”
Golub added that in the two weeks he has been working for Gottlieb, he has seen “scores” of supporters come out to assist the campaign.
The other candidates in the June 26 Democratic primary are Assemblywoman Grace Meng, Assemblyman Rory Lancman, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, Dr. Robert Mittman and “Ada” Juan Sheng.