Two public corruption cases were pushed out to July following disposition conferences with Superior Court Judge Stephen Taylor on Monday.
Former Jersey City Board of Education President Sudhan Thomas and former Morris County Freeholder John Cesaro face bribery charges related to a sting operation run by the attorney general’s office with the help of Mathew O’Donnell, a Morristown tax appeal attorney who is the state’s cooperating witness in the probe.
State prosecutors have offered a plea agreement of five years with no eligibility for parole. Cesaro has also been offered a deal: five years in prison with the possibility of parole after two years.
Thomas has been assigned a public defender, Joseph Corazza, after party ways with his previous defense attorney, Matthew Troiano.
Citing voluminous materials turned over in discovery, Corazza asked for an extension.
“I’m not in a position right now to have an intelligent conversation with Mr. Thomas about the case,” Corazza said. “I’m still going through these materials.”
Thomas, who attended the virtual hearing by telephone – and at one point sought to speak before being silenced by his counsel, will be back in court on July 26.
Troiano asked to be relieved of the case in April and Thomas is now on his third attorney.
Cesaro’s attorney, Robert Dunn, also asked for an extension so he could review grand jury transcripts and extensive discovery. He’ll return to court on July 19.
“I need additional time,” Dunn told the court.
Taylor said that he’ll schedule motions at that time if the two sides haven’t agreed on a deal by then.
Deputy Attorney General John Nicodemo was a no-show in court on Monday. His co-counsel, Trevor Taniguchi, handled the conferences.
Cesaro is charged with official misconduct, bribery, accepting an unlawful benefit, tampering and falsifying public records, and concealing campaign contributions.
Thomas faces charges of official misconduct, pattern of official misconduct, bribery and taking an unlawful benefit for a public official.
The former Jersey City official – he lost his bid for re-election in 2019 — is facing a massive 26-count federal grand jury indictment on money laundering, fraud and embezzlement charges.
Thomas and Cesaro are two of the five individuals initially charged in December 2019 as part of the Matt O’Donnell sting.
Superior Court Judge Mitzi Galis-Menendez dismissed the indictment against former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-Bayonne) in June. The New Jersey Globe reported last week that a detective for the state attorney general’s Office of Public Integrity told a grand jury in 2019 that he did not consider a former legislator charged with official misconduct to be a public official.
Mary Dougherty pled guilty to one count of a campaign contribution reporting violation and was placed on probation for one year.
Charges are still pending against the fifth little fish netted by the Matt O’Donnell sting, former Mount Arlington Councilman John Windish.
Matt O’Donnell entered into a plea agreement with the state attorney general’s office in July 2018, but has not yet been charged.
O’Donnell agreed to plead guilty to one count of second degree Conspiracy to Commit Misconduct by a Corporate Official and forfeit $600,00 he made through an elaborate scheme that used illegal straw donors and cash contributions to obtain lucrative taxpayer-funded legal contracts.
The state will recommend that O’Donnell serve eight years in a state prison, according to a plea agreement obtained by the New Jersey Globe through a document request from the state judiciary.
But prosecutors and O’Donnell also agreed that the forfeiture amount would be “be subject to an upward revision to account for prospective profits that the defendant derives from illegal activities occurring after the date of this agreement but in connection with his cooperation.”
The prosecution of O’Donnell has been going on for nearly four years.Matt O’Donnell Plea Agreement