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Why did Craig Carton even plead not guilty?

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It didn’t have to come to this.

That was one of Boomer Esiason’s takeaways to listeners of WFAN on Friday morning, hours before his former radio partner was scheduled to be sentenced for securities fraud and defrauding investors. Esiason, a former Jets quarterback, wondered why Carton went through with a trial when he seemingly had nothing to back up his public pleas of innocence.

“The thing I wonder about with Craig is, who is talking him through all this stuff and whether or not he was offered a plea deal,” Esiason said. “I don’t know if he was or he wasn’t or why he didn’t take it. To take it all the way to trial and not have anything to back up what you had been saying publicly, that was kind of a head-scratching thing for me.

“This could have already started and maybe he could’ve gotten out earlier. I don’t know who was advising, maybe he was advising himself to this point but today is going to be a tough day for a lot of people.”

Prosecutors have suggested that Carton serve five to seven years in prison, which Esiason called “chilling.” Esiason talked about letters of support that he and other members of the WFAN team sent in to support Carton in hopes to get the sentencing reduced. He lamented being unable to attend the sentencing himself, though some of the WFAN employees will be there.

As The Post’s Phil Mushnick reported on Thursday, Carton will play a five-minute tape called “The Reckoning” that will depict the depths of his gambling problem, which he claims led to his role in a ticket-brokering Ponzi scheme. On the tape, Carton admits to making his last bet on June 22, 2018 — nine months after he was initially arrested.

Esiason said he believes he was playing golf with him on or about that day.

“He was gambling up until last summer and I remember coming back here and saying, ‘I don’t think he has really changed that much,’” Esiason said.

“His personality is still the same. Then I read he had a bet June 22nd of last summer and that’s right around when we were playing golf. Maybe that’s what he was alluding to because he actually did make a bet on the golf course. And I was like, ‘woah, wait a minute here.’ So, I don’t know. It’s going to be a sad day for all of us here.”

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