Trial of ex-official in Passaic postponed

1 08 2008

  TRENTON— A judge on Thursday agreed to postpone the corruption trial of Jonathan Soto, a former Passaic city councilman, until the fall so that his lawyer can have more time to review the government’s evidence.

Soto, 33, is facing a 15-count indictment, including charges that he took $22,000 in bribes and solicited narcotics from undercover FBI operatives.

Soto appeared at an early afternoon hearing at U.S. District Court. Following a series of closed-door meetings between Judge Ann Thompson, Soto’s lawyer, Jose L. Ongay, and U.S. Attorneys David Bocian and Hope Olds, the judge agreed to allow Soto’s lawyer more time to review the hundreds of documents and tape recordings the government is using as evidence against his client.

Soto, dressed in a charcoal gray suit, remained silent throughout the five minute hearing.

Two weeks before, Ongay wrote the court asking for more time because he plans to file a motion to dismiss the charges due to “entrapment.” In addition, Ongay said he has not met enough times with his client, who has missed five appointments with him because of “health problems.”

Soto and Ongay quickly exited the courtroom after the hearing and declined to comment. Bocian, the U.S. attorney, also declined to comment.

After his arrest in September, a judge ordered Soto to get treatment for drug abuse and to receive mental-health counseling as a condition of his bail.

According to the March indictment, Soto told FBI agents in recorded conversations that he “wanted to go smoke.” The indictment did not specify what controlled substance Soto was referring to.

Soto’s father, Arturo Soto, 64, said in a telephone interview after the hearing that his son was never addicted to drugs. When asked what the court meant by “health problems,” Arturo Soto said, “That’s the first I’ve heard of it. No, no, no way. Maybe cause he’s gained weight. He’s heavy, you know.”

FBI agents arrested Soto, along with former Mayor Samuel Rivera and former Councilman Marcellus Jackson last September.

They were accused of taking bribes from undercover FBI agents in exchange for helping to get public contracts for a fake insurance company called Coastal Solutions LLC.

The three were among 11 public officials nabbed on corruption charges in a statewide FBI sting dubbed “Operation Broken Boards.”

Rivera and Jackson have already pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

Soto, a teacher at Lincoln Middle School in Passaic, has been suspended without pay since his indictment in March.

He has avoided speaking publicly and has kept a low profile. He is active in church, at Principe de Paz, where his father is pastor.

And he worked briefly as an election poll worker during the Democratic primary in February.

The next hearing is set for Sept. 12.

Soto’s trial is scheduled to begin October 27.




One response

15 08 2008

We all make mistakes, but, if you did the crime…. It;s only fair you do the time! Sometimes, we take life for granted. We become selfish and forget the people that surround us. The people that love us the most suffer the most. We need to realize that when we are in a place of influence, we need to serve and not take advantage of people. Yes, I’m sure deep in your heart you know you are guilty… But man, humble yourself… you can’t deceive God! Humbeling yourself to what is right.. Don’t try to cover what you did… The government is here to protect us, the people!!! And so is God!! He loves Justice!!

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