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Former gubernatorial and congressional candidate Phil Rizzo appears in a small claims court hearing on December 5, 2022. (Photo: New Jersey Globe).

Phil Rizzo trial resumes today

Grifter who ran for Congress in 2022 will be in small claims court after Morris GOP sued him for failing to pay a $1,500 convention table fee

By David Wildstein, February 06 2023 9:03 am

The small claims court trial of Phil Rizzo will resume today after a five-week delay, with Morris County Republicans seeking to recover a $1,500 unpaid bill from Rizzo’s unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2022.

After months of delays, the trial began on December 19 and ended following about 180 minutes of motions and testimony.  Holiday schedules, Rizzo’s unavailability, and an unexpected illness by one of the attorneys delayed day two of the Rizzo trial until today.

The Morris County Republican Committee filed a lawsuit alleging that Rizzo for Congress stiffed them out of a fee they agreed to pay for a table at the GOP county convention last winter.   Rizzo has filed a $600 counterclaim, alleging that an ad they purchased from the county party organization was never displayed.

The executive director of the Morris County Republican Committee, Anthony DeSpirito, testified that he had verbal and written communications with two Rizzo for Congress campaign staffers where they agreed to pay $1,500 for a table at the March 4 GOP convention.   He said that Rizzo’s political director, Daniel Laucik, Jr., showed him proof of payment, but he later determined that the Rizzo staffer showed him a fake receipt.

DeSpirito is expected to face cross-examination today by Rizzo’s lawyer, Ronald Berutti.

In December., Superior Court Judge David Weaver rejected Rizzo’s bid to move the trial out of Morris County, saying the constitutional rights of the former congressional and gubernatorial candidate were not violated because the trial was being held over Zoom.

In a court filing, Rizzo claimed that he could not receive a fair trial in Morris County because of the outsized control the local GOP holds over the judiciary.

“There just no evidence of that there’s substantial doubt that a fair, impartial trial can be reached because the Morris County Republican organization is a part of this action,” said Weaver.  “I am a Sussex County judge, and to the extent that it’s relevant, I’m tenured and I’m ten months away from retirement.”

The lawsuit against Laucik has been dismissed.

The attorney for the Morris County Republican Committee, Joseph Bell IV, and Berutti could not settle the case with the help of a mediator in December.

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