The Star-Ledger by MaryAnn Spoto - March 17, 2011
They left the federal courthouse in Newark on Wednesday the same way they had arrived: hoping a judge would dismiss corruption charges against them. A month after the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a crippling blow to federal prosecutors, five defendants in New Jersey’s largest federal corruption sting remained no closer to learning whether charges against them would be dropped or their cases thrown out entirely. Government attorneys said they are considering asking the full court of appeals to decide whether the five can be charged with public corruption even if they did not hold public office when they allegedly accepted bribes from disgraced developer Solomon Dwek. U.S. District Judge Jose Linares gave the government until April 4 to make a decision and file the necessary paperwork. Even then, it is unclear whether the issue will be decided. If U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman decides to ask for an appeal, it could take months for the 3rd Circuit to decide whether it wants to hear the case. The delay disappointed some of the defense attorneys. "My hope was that we were going to come here and they were just going to accept the decision," Raymond Hamlin, attorney for former Jersey City housing authority commissioner Lori Serrano, said after court. "Hopefully it will be like we said — at the end of the day Lori Serrano has done nothing wrong." Serrano, who lost a bid for Jersey City council in 2009, is accused of accepting $10,000 in bribes for her campaign from Dwek in exchange for her help in expediting permits for a supposed development project in the city. But Dwek, posing as developer David Esenbach, was secretly working with the FBI and recording meetings and telephone conversations. Some of the attorneys had hoped Linares would at least drop the extortion charges for their clients in light of his decision last year and the 3rd Circuit’s ruling last month.
Former Hudson County Undersheriff James "Jimmy" King, who once served as executive director of the city’s parking authority and as chairman of its incinerator authority, pleaded guilty in September 2009 to bribery. Housing advocate LaVern Webb-Washington pleaded guilty to bribery the following month and was sentenced to one year in prison, a term Linares agreed to suspend until the appeal issue is resolved.
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