(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, left, in handcuffs is walked to a waiting bus outside FBI offices in Newark, N.J. When asked about the arrests, she said she had no idea what this is about. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Losing her plea for mercy, Jersey City's former deputy mayor was sentenced Monday to three years in federal prison for taking $20,000 in bribes.
Leona Beldini, 75, had asked the judge to go easy, saying "I am afraid I will not survive."
Her voice cracking, Beldini, among 46 people caught in one of New Jersey's largest corruption stings, implored U.S. District Judge Jose LInares:
"I am so scared right now, I stand before you facing the most terrifying moment of my entire life."
So far, 20 of the 46 defendants have been convicted or pleaded guilty -- including former Hoboken City Councilman Michael Schaffer who on Monday admitted giving that city's former mayor $25,000 in illicit campaign funds to gain his support for real estate projects. Schaffer, 59, of Hoboken, will be sentenced in September.
Beldini, the first to go on trial, didn't react inside the Newark Federal Courtroom when Linares detailed her sentence, including a $30,000 fine, and ordered her to surrender to prison officials by August 2nd. However her attorney, Brian Neary, said she is innocent and will appeal. She was facing 3 and 1/2 to 4 and 1/2 years in prison.
A jury in February found Beldini, a Democrat, guilty of accepting $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions from an FBI informant posing as a real estate developer.
However, the jury acquitted her of more serious extortion charges.