Passaic Mayor Sammy Rivera Waiting Indictment

28 11 2007

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Passaic Mayor Sammy Rivera isn’t interested in negotiating a plea deal in his federal corruption case and fully expects to be indicted early next year, his lawyer said Tuesday.

A judge has granted Rivera another 60 days to pursue a possible plea deal before prosecutors present evidence to a grand jury, court records show. A court order, signed last week by U.S. Magistrate Judge Tonianne Bongiovanni in Trenton, granted a second continuance in Rivera’s case.

But Rivera’s attorney said it doesn’t make a difference.

“There are no plea discussions going on,” said defense attorney Henry E. Klingeman. “The government expects to indict Mayor Rivera at some point. But everybody is busy and they’re planning to wait until after the first of the year, as far as I can tell.

“I would expect the next event in the case to be an indictment,” said Klingeman, a former federal prosecutor.

“As he’s said repeatedly, he’s planning to defend himself,” Klingeman added, “and that’s what we’re going to do with vigor.”

Rivera was one of 11 public officials arrested by the FBI on Sept. 6 on charges of extorting more than $150,000 in bribes from cooperating contractors in an undercover sting dubbed operation “Broken Boards” He has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

Under federal rules, a defendant has a right to have charges presented to a grand jury within 30 days of an arrest, but can waive that right and obtain a continuance for good cause.

Bongiovanni’s latest order extends that deadline to Jan. 25 to give the parties time “to conduct plea negotiations and attempt to finalize a plea agreement.”

“That’s simply the language that the court requires in order to justify these continuances,” said Klingeman, calling the order a “formality.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office does not comment on plea negotiations, a spokesman said.

Last month, three of the defendants arrested in the sting pleaded guilty to charges they took bribes to influence the award of public contracts.

Awaiting sentencing are the Rev. Alfred E. Steele of Paterson, who resigned his posts as a Passaic County undersheriff and state assemblyman following his arrest, and former Pleasantville school board members Jayson Adams and Rafael Velez.

Steele admitted that he accepted $15,500 in bribes; Adams said he took $62,200; and Velez pocketed $4,000 but had arranged to be paid $15,000 more.

Among the other defendants, only Orange Mayor Mims Hackett, also a former assemblyman, has been indicted so far. He has pleaded not guilty to charges he pocketed a $5,000 bribe and faces a Dec. 17 trial. PETER J. SAMPSON NorthJersey.com

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