By Matthew Arco | November 14th, 2012 - 2:01pm
| More

TRENTON – Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo’s defense attorney spent the morning Wednesday cross-examining the government’s star witness in the feds' criminal bribery case against the embattled mayor.

Attorney Jerome Ballarotto questioned former insurance broker Maria Ljuba about her relationship with the mayor and other Hamilton officials.

Ljuba testified that she gave thousands of dollars in bribes – including cash, trips to Disneyland and money for drugs – to Hamilton officials in an attempt to retain her multimillion-dollar contract with the township that netted her millions of dollars in commissions.

Ballarotto spent the morning painting a picture for jurors that shed light on the mayor’s close relationship with Ljuba, including how the mayor relied on her after he underwent surgery and how he spent Christmas Eve dinner with Ljuba and her family.

Bencivengo’s attorney also appeared to hammer home for jurors how her agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office allowed Ljuba to get off from all criminal prosecution.

“If fact, you could have gotten 20 years in jail for extortion,” Ballarotto said, while rattling off other possible jail sentences for her other alleged crimes.

“You understand that, right?” asked Ballarotto.

“Yes,” Ljuba responded.

Ballarotto promised jurors in his opening remarks that he planned to show how Ljuba threw the mayor under the bus in order to save herself from prosecution.

Jurors left the courtroom shortly before 1 p.m. for a one-hour lunch break.

The second day of the trial is expected to resume later this afternoon, when former Hamilton township official Rob Warney is expected to testify.

Warney, Hamilton’s former director of community planning and compliance, pleaded guilty in June to money laundering after officials say he funneled $5,000 in bribes from Ljuba to Bencivengo.

Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: April 18, 2014

Fulop endorses Smith in Bayonne mayoral raceBAYONNE - Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop parachuted into the Bayonne mayoral race on Thursday night by endorsing incumbent Mayor Mark Smith."It is a pleasure to be with you here, Mark," said Fulop to a crowd of more than 125 supporters at a...

Op-Ed

The future of NJ Politics should not be politicians investigating politicians

By JON BRAMNICK Voices around the country agree with our concern that "bipartisan committee led by John Wisniewski is partisan." Below are observers who agree Wisneiwski's committee is not bipartisan: Chuck Todd, NBC News: "Democrats made a mistake... Read More >

Contributors

(4-16-14) New Jersey Vote By Mail Law - The voter turnout for New Jersey’s November gubernatorial election was the lowest since the days of prohibition, coming... more »
When it comes to profiling Christie, facts are for wussies (4/10/14) - As the national media stories on our Guv pile up, expect more blunders about the Garden State.... more »
This week I begin a series called Dispatches from Somewhere Else. Based on my on-going experiences as an everyman in New Jersey politics, these Dispatches review the hollowness of... more »
Watching Governor Chris Christie's shocking BridgeGate implosion, it's easy to forget the time when he truly seemed unstoppable.  Blessed with incredible political gifts and a Jersey bluster to match,... more »

Quote of the Day

Quote of the day

"This is my first Mark Smith event. There have been a lot of changes in Hudson County over the last year and a half, and the most important change that has happened is that there really is unity. For the first time, we really are working together. Despite political differences. Mark and I have worked very hard to repair that. I'm really happy to be here in support of him, because I recognize that when you work together, politics becomes secondary and you really have time to focus on government, which is the most important thing." - Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop

- PolitickerNJ.com

Poll

Which is the most competitive of these May 13th elections?:

Resources

Visit the PolitickerNJ.com/resources page for links to the best collection of information on New Jersey state government.

 

  • Polls
  • The best blogs
  • Columnists
  • State election results
  • Assembly election results
  • Local party websites
  • And more.

PolitickerNJ.com/resources