NEWARK – The prosecution concluded its case in the federal corruption trial of former Bergen County Democratic Organization (BCDO) Chairman Joseph Ferriero on Thursday, followed immediately by a defense motion to dismiss the case for a lack of evidence.
“No juror could find my client guilty of any of the offenses he is charged with,” said Ferriero’s attorney, Michael Baldassare. “The failure to call in decision-makers permeates the entire case. There is no evidence of what happened at the moment of the alleged creation of bribery.”
“The amount the defendant charged for his services is very strong evidence that he exchanged something more valuable than an introduction or a contact list,” countered Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachael Honig. “[Ferriero] executed, delivered, then divvied up the proceeds.”
Ferriero has been charged with leading the BCDO using a pattern of racketeering that included accepting and soliciting bribes as a party official, extorting a developer, and paying kickbacks to a public official.
The developer in question is the Virginia-based Mills Corp., which was seeking to build the proposed retail and entertainment complex, then named Xanadu, in the Meadowlands on land owned by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA).
The alleged kickbacks center on a Nutley software developer that purportedly sought Ferriero’s help in obtaining public contracts in various Bergen County municipalities, the indictment claims.
Another alleged scheme involved the Bergen County borough of Bergenfield hiring Governmental Grants Consulting, the grants-writing firm that Ferriero and a fellow attorney, Dennis J. Oury, formed in 2001. Oury was at the time the BCDO’s counsel. The indictment alleges that Oury encouraged the Bergenfield borough council to hire the firm while not disclosing his and Ferriero’s interest in the firm.
The former BCDO chairman is also charged with conspiring to promote bribery and to distribute bribe proceeds, and committing mail and wire fraud.
While U.S. District Judge Esther Salas considers the dismissal motion, the defense is expected to begin its case this afternoon.