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Van Pelt convicted on all counts May 19, 2010

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As I predicted, Van Pelt was convicted on all counts.  I can’t complain too much about the defense lawyers as they were dealt a tough hand.  However, I do have to wonder why they had Van Pelt testify about conversations he had with Marci Hochman only to call Hochman later who denied those conversations!  That just seems really odd.  It really sunk any chance at that point.

However, the Government argued the obvious: there was no contract or any other proof as to what this payment was for.  I really don’t see how you get around that.

Story is here.

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Van Pelt testifies at his own trial May 11, 2010

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Looks like Van Pelt’s lawyers have some guts.  The media seems shocked that Van Pelt testified but I think that is because they are just so used to lawyers with no guys.  You have nothing to lose by putting Van Pelt up there.  He is clearly a bright guy and he should make a good witness. 

I really need to hear Van Pelt explain away the cash payment.  If he can explain that away, he has a great shot.  The Government doesn’t seem to have any evidence that Van Pelt did anything to help Dwek here, just the allegation that he was going to.  But I keep having to come back to the meeting at the diner and the lack of paperwork associated with the cash payment.  That just doesn’t make any sense if this is legit.  If everyone here is a real, legit businessman, why can’t they meet at an office, sign contracts and pay with a check?  If I’m the Government, that’s my whole argument to the jury.

Story is here.

Dwek stands up to cross examination in Van Pelt Trial May 10, 2010

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Based upon the news reports, it seems that Solomon Dwek is holding up well in cross examination.  The defense seems to be trying to paint him as a desperate man that will do anything to bribe public officials in an effort to save himself.   Since a lot of this is on video, I’m not sure I would go with this strategy if my client was taking the stand.  I assume Daniel Van Pelt is not going to take the stand even though he probably should.

Through cross examination, it seems like Dwek is getting to testify as to many issues that I find objectionable.  For example, Dwek reportedly said “I walked away from 15-20 other honest public servants”.  How do you know these people are honest?  Who asked him for his opinion on why someone else did something?

According to app.com:

The line of questioning from Gilberti appears intent on establishing that at no time did Van Pelt actually ask for a bribe from Dwek. Moreover, Gilberti contends, Van Pelt did not display any signs of paranoia in Dwek’s company in public, which one would expect from an individual engaged in criminal activity. The defense has argued that Van Pelt believed he had been retained as a paid consultant for Dwek.

That may make sense if your client testifies, but otherwise, the jury is going to be left with some major questions such as:  where is the agreement or even any paperwork to show that this payment was made?, why was it paid in cash?, why were these meetings in a diner?  These are all questions that the jury will have to deal with unless Van Pelt can explain them away.

Story is here.

Confusion over split verdict in Leona Beldini trial February 12, 2010

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Check out this article that is written by the AP.  I don’t get it.  Yes, the jury’s verdict is odd but that’s what juries do.  I can’t see how any of this can be blamed on Dwek.  While I didn’t watch the trial, I did not agree with Brian Neary’s tactic of trying to tear down Dwek and not showing his client as a real human being.  The videos that Dwek recorded shifted the focus on Beldini and away from Dwek’s credibility. 

Beldini should have taken the stand and explained to the jury what her interpretation of these video taped meetings were.  Show her as a real person.  Let her break down and cry.  Let the Government try to beat her down.  The jury would view her as a human being and be upset with the Government for being so harsh with her. 

As I said yesterday, Dwek will be a much better witness the next go round.  He stood up to brutal cross  examination and I doubt the other attorneys left on the case could match it even with the transcripts in hand.  Of  course, they would be stupid to try to improve on a strategy that failed.  If there are videos, the defendant has to explain them away.

Another article is here.  I think this article is much better as it is more detailed unlike the other article from the AP.  The best part about it is the quote from the juror.  I read this after writing 90% of this post and yesterday’s post.  I think it just goes to show that I was right.  You can’t beat up on Dwek all day and hope that will carry you to victory.  I had a fraud case where the State had an very strong case against my client.  I put him on the stand and the jury loved him.  He did great because I prepped him well and the jury came back not guilty in 90 minutes.  The jury waived good bye to the two of us as they left.  They loved him because I humanized him.

Operation Bid Rig III Update: Leona Beldini Found Guilty February 11, 2010

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The jury found former Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini guilty on two of  the six counts.  Those two counts are for accepting bribes from a federal informant posing as a corrupt developer. She was acquitted of extortion conspiracy, two counts of attempted extortion and a third bribery count.

It’ll be very interesting to see what happens now.  Brian Neary is a great attorney and the jury was out for less than two days.  Brian had Dwek on the stand for several days and he stood up to  some punishing cross examination.  He’ll be a much better witness moving forward.  Unless the other lawyers have a different tactic, they are going to have a tough time with another jury.  I would be surprised if there is another OBR3 trial.

Story is here.

Another plea in Operation Bid Rig III January 28, 2010

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Former Lakewood housing inspector Jeffrey Williamson pleaded guilty today to accepting $17,500 in bribes.  A two-time state Assembly candidate, Williamson was arrested July 23 for accepting the bribe in return for leniency on his property inspections for a Dwek, the purported real estate developer who was really a cooperating witness facing bank fraud charges.  He also pleaded guilty to not reporting the bribe to the IRS as income.

Story is here.

Operation Bid Rig III Update – First Trial About to Start January 20, 2010

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Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in the trial of Leona Beldini. She  is being represented by New Jersey attorney Brian Neary.  She faces several counts of attempted extortion and bribery for allegedly accepting money from Dwek who posed as a corrupt developer and turning the money into improper campaign donations.  Should be very interesting to see how this case plays out and what happens as a result with regard to the remaining defendants.

The story has more updates about pre-trial motions and other issues which is here.

Yet another Operation Bid Rig 3 plea December 14, 2009

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Just in time for the holidays, the pleas continue to roll in.  This time its Charles Ammon of Lakewood who admitted to one count of conspiring to commit extortion.  Ammon arranged meetings between Dwek (the Government’s informant) and a Lakewood building inspector who was also arrested in July.  The inspector, Jeffrey Williamson, allegedly accepted cash bribes in exchange for clean inspection reports.

Story is here.

Surprise plea in Operation Bid Rig 3 December 3, 2009

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This one is tough for me as I know Al Santoro.  Thus, I’ll simply say that one, I’m just shocked, two, I was right about more pleas (see yesterday’s blog post) and finally, Santoro was not part of “the 44”; so who else is in plea discussions even though they have not been arrested?

Operation Bid Rig 3 Update – 8th guilty plea in case December 2, 2009

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Former Jersey City arson investigator Michael Manzo who was also an unsuccessful candidate for the city’s municipal council, pleaded guilty to one count of extortion conspiracy today.  He faces a sentence of about 10 to 16 months although its hard to know exactly where it will be in this post-Booker era. 

There is no indication  that I can find as to what type of deal Manzo cut with  regard to testifying against any of the other defendants.  However, with 8 guilty pleas already, I am sure you will see some of them taking the stand if these cases go to trial.

With this month just starting, I am almost 100% sure that you will see more pleas in this case this month.  At least one defendant doesn’t seem to have made much progress yet as he still seems to be attorney shopping.  I’m not dropping any names but I don’t see him going to trial even though he probably thinks he is.  We’ll see.

Speaking of trial, it seems like attorney Brian Neary is getting ready to his client, Leona Beldini, to trial.  Trial is scheduled for January but I think that time frame is wishful thinking at this point.   This month should be interesting.

Story is here.