TRENTON – Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo had his first court appearance before a federal judge today in connection with allegations that he was involved with a more than $12,000 bribery scheme.
Bencivengo was ordered to surrender his passport and told he cannot leave the state without permission as part of his bail package. A judge told the embattled mayor his rights and released him on $100,000 unsecured bond.
The court hearing began shortly before noon and lasted about five minutes.
Bencivengo, who was flanked by federal agents during the hearing, only spoke three times during his appearance, answering “yes” when Judge Douglas Arpert asked if he understood the charges filed against him and his rights.
“It went very smooth,” said Jerome Ballarotto, Bencivengo’s attorney, speaking to reporters outside of the courthouse following the hearing. He said his client intends to plead not guilty.
“He’s not … feeling real happy about this, but he’s doing well,” he said, adding he didn’t expect Bencivengo to resign.
“I’m going take care of defending these charges and he’s going to continue to take care of the business of Hamilton Township,” Ballarotto said.
Ballarotto told reporters the informant in the extortion case against the mayor was wearing a video recording device.
“The informant, we hope, recorded every single word,” said Ballarotto, adding the entire recording will prove his client’s innocence.
Bencivengo walked out of the courthouse shortly after 12:30 p.m. without speaking to reporters.