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Jon Voight pleads for mercy in producer pal's gambling case

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Nov 11, 2013 | 7:59pm EST

Actor Jon Voight has written to a New York judge pleading for leniency in a producer pal's gambling ring sentencing. Bryan Zuriff, who works behind the scenes on Voight's hit new U.S. TV drama Ray Donovan, faces a year behind bars for his part in an online sports betting syndicate reportedly tied to Russian gangsters. He will learn his fate on 25 November (13) after pleading guilty, but ahead of his sentencing, the executive producer has written a letter to New York judge Jesse M. Furman begging for mercy. And in court documents obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, he has some big names backing him - as well as Voight, directors Judd Apatow and Peter Berg are also vouching for him. Recalling the day his friend was arrested, Voight writes, "As soon as he was released on bail he came to the set to express his sorrow and shame to all of us. He was full of remorse and sadness. We thank God he didn't give up and walk away from his work. "Despite the painful private challenges he was facing he was able to be there to finish overseeing the season's last episodes. There isn't one of us who has worked with Bryan that doesn't feel he is a fine man and deserving of our loyalty." Apatow, who used Zuriff's home as a location for his hit comedy Knocked Up, adds, "It is not easy to allow a movie crew into your home for several weeks and to watch as hundreds of people move your belongings and disrupt your life. Yet, this is exactly what Bryan did, and he did so graciously and modestly." The moviemaker admits he is "surprised and confused" by his friend's crime, adding, "Bryan has not made excuses to me for what he did. In my conversations with Bryan, he has owned his actions and taken responsibility. His remorse is genuine. I believe he is truly sorry for what he did and is ready to make amends." Zuriff confessed to his involvement in illegal betting books in Los Angeles and New York during a court hearing in July (13). He was one of 34 people indicted in April (13) in relation to organised crime enterprises allegedly run by Russian-American gangsters, who are accused of laundering $100 million (£66.6 million) from illegal gambling.

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