First, the Hudson County View blew the lid off questions swirling around which 2015 council candidate unnamed in a Department of Justice filing is connected to Matt Calicchio, a long time political operative who most recently worked for former councilwoman Beth Mason.
Assistant US Attorney Rahul Agarwal asked which council candidate he worked for in 2015 and the two words erupted like a neutron bomb in Hoboken: Eduardo Gonzalez.
Calicchio has admitted his guilt for participating in a voter bribery scheme for both the 2013 and 2015 election. He savaged Raia throughout his testimony on day two detailing systematic payments for votes using Vote by Mail ballots centered at 520 Jefferson Street, the Raia Social Club.
In great detail, Calicchio discussed a team of people altering ballots in the club stating, "Mr. Raia was giving the orders." Two of the people, Liz Camis, and Dio Braxton have already pleaded guilty to their respective roles in the voter bribery scheme and are expected to testify on behalf of the government.
|Eduardo Gonzalez seen here as a commissioner|
on the Hoboken Housing Authority was named
by Matt Calicchio today as a council candidate he
worked for in the 2015 election.
He is a two time failed council candidate who served on the Hoboken Housing Authority, mostly backing the controversial former HHA Director Carmelo Garcia, also a failed council candidate in 2015. Gonzalez also ran for a City Council at-large seat in 2013.
Calicchio mixed it up often with Raia defense counsel Alan Zegas who attempted to paint a picture of legality on checks issued to hundreds of "campaign workers."
But Calicchio would have none of it. He contradicted the defense counsel indicating he personally saw Frank Raia make additional cash payments to Camis and Braxton.
"You didn't see that," the defense counsel retaliated. "I did," Calicchio responded and said Raia pulled out a wad of cash dishing off an unknown amount to Camis.
In addition to eyewitness testimony and admission he himself handled 24 Vote-by-Mail ballots in 2013, Calicchio explained how NJ campaign laws were circumvented to not list all the paid voters on campaign reports.
"Frank wanted to hire somebody to write the checks so he didn't have to" pointing to the role of Bluewater Operations, a now defunct political consulting firm according to Ryan Yacco, a principal and founder who testified end-of-day to doing payroll for "a list provided" of alleged campaign workers. Yacco stated he spoke to Raia two or three times in 2013 downplaying the role of the payroll process saying campaigns didn't have time to write checks but he verified no work for the issued checks.
Pointing back to Raia leading "a coverup," Calicchio also testified declarations signed by paid voters promising to do work for the campaign was a ruse. "They signed the form a day after the election."
After contradictory grand jury testimony was exposed in the first of two appearances back to 2017, Calicchio explained to the prosecution he didn't want to get himself or others in trouble as a reason for lying. "Time to come clean and tell the truth and move on with my life," he said matter-of-factly.
Zegas took exception with this high-minded position ending his questions asking, "You don't want to go to jail?"
Without missing a beat, Calicchio responded "yes."
|Matt Calicchio hams it up for the Hobokenhorse.com camera at a 2013 City Council meeting.|
He was a star witness today for the government in the Frank Raia trial in federal court in Newark.
Talking Ed Note: There's more on all this as the Hudson County View filed its second story of the day at the link: https://hudsoncountyview.com/ex-county-elections-worker-voters-political-consultant-take-the-stand-in-raias-hoboken-vbm-trial/
Two Hoboken Housing Authority residents testified to their being paid $50 each for their VBM ballot with the latter inconsistent on participation handing out campaign flyers.
The government continues its case and indicated it has more voters and two campaign captains to testify. Hoboken politico Michael Holmes, a long time politically active resident's name came up numerous times leading to speculation he may be a witness in the trial.
The mayor's office had two of its three aides present. Chief of Staff John Allen and Deputy Chief of Staff Jason Freeman were in attendance most of the day at the Newark trial. A highly placed source outside Hoboken responding to the suggestion they were there to see Holmes testify noted, "they want to see if Holmes names (Councilman) Michael Russo. If he does, they'll tell Ravi (Bhalla) and then run a candidate in the third ward council race this November."
So the Ravi-Russo Alliance is potentially facing a possible double cross. The more you know...
Update: The Jersey Journal also in attendance filed this story on the events of day two in the trial, required reading: https://www.nj.com/hudson/2019/06/new-details-of-hoboken-cash-for-votes-scheme-revealed-during-day-2-of-developers-trial.html