Defense Rests Its Case for NJ Deputy Mayor Accused of Corruption

By SAMANTHA HENRY
|  Friday, Feb 5, 2010  |  Updated 7:30 PM EDT
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Defense Rests Its Case for NJ Deputy Mayor Accused of Corruption

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It soon will be up to a jury to decide the fate of the first defendant to go to trial in New Jersey's largest corruption sting.

     The defense rested Friday in the case of suspended Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, who faces six charges of bribery and extortion. Beldini's lawyer, Brian Neary, rested without calling any witnesses.
    
The government, which concluded its case Thursday, has sought to show that Beldini accepted $20,000 in campaign contributions on behalf of Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy and that the money originated from government informant Solomon Dwek. They charge that the money was converted into checks to hide Dwek's connection, and that Beldini, as Healy's campaign treasurer, allegedly promised to help Dwek with building approvals and be the real estate broker for his development.
    
The defense claims Beldini never accepted cash from Dwek and has done nothing illegal.
    
Dwek was arrested for bank fraud in 2006 and, in an agreement with the government, secretly recorded numerous meetings with public officials in New Jersey, culminating in the arrests of 44 people in July.
    
Neary asked the court Friday to dismiss the charges against Beldini and to reword some of what they jury will hear Monday during instructions from the judge.
    
Neary argued that Beldini discussed political contributions, not bribes, with the informant and that she never had a formal arrangement with him to be the real estate agent for his proposed development.
    
U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares rejected Neary's petitions and said all six charges will be given to the jury Monday, to be followed by closing arguments.
    
Linares said the government presented sufficient evidence to back up its charges.
    
"She (Beldini) was aware of the money and other benefits, she knew how they operated: 'flip the pile,' 'cut through the red tape,' however you want to put it,'' Linares said. "For all of those reasons, there is sufficient evidence for this case to go to jury on all counts.''
    
Beldini, with close-cropped blond hair, a gray pants suit and mustard-yellow scarf, sat by her lawyer and shook her head "no'' as Linares reiterated each charge against her. She turned to look at her daughter, sitting in the first row at court, who she had held in a long embrace in the hallway earlier.

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