Monday, June 24, 2019

Jury deliberates into day two with questions in Raia trial

Closing arguments this morning from the prosecution and defense in day five of the Frank Raia bribery scheme trial led to afternoon jury deliberations before being later adjourned by Judge William Martini in US federal court today.

The jury requested witness testimony from four of five Hoboken paid Vote by Mail voters: Latasha Swindon, Marquitha Allen, Patricia Tirado, and Tracy Stepherson.

In addition, the jury requested the witness testimony of the treasurer of the Raia PAC "Let the People Decide" Andrew Canonico and Brian Cardino, a former Hudson County Board of Elections investigator.

Judge William Martini discharged the jury at about 12:45 where they would have lunch ready and begin deliberations. On receiving the request for witness testimony details and later, two succeeding questions, he opted to see the jury adjourn.

The first question from the jury asked if a sealed ballot can be brought by a bearer to a campaign office?

The judge appeared hesitant to give an incorrect answer saying, "It would be unfair to say you can't take (sealed) ballots back" before mailing them and not to give the jury an answer "would be grossly unfair."

Asst. US Attorney Rahul Agarwal seemed uncomfortable with the assessment stating, "there's no testimony" in the record to that conclusion.

The testimony of Hilda Rosario, the supervisor for the Hudson County Board of Elections was read and reread briefly. "Can they (the bearer) take it (the VBM) anywhere?" Her answer: "no."

The judge heard Asst. US Attorney Sean Farrell reiterate Rosario's position conveying government agents had checked with her on the break confirming this was, in fact, the case.

Sharply differing with the prosecution, Frank Raia lead defense counsel Alan Zegas. "It's beyond the scope of the record," he said before dissenting further adding he thought the VBM could be taken to a campaign headquarters.

All of which led to Judge Martini expressing a willingness to further explore the issue in the morning when witness transcripts would be made available. He hoped to have the respective counsel agree to a response for the jury.

While the rules of Vote by Mail were changed in 2014 following a trial in Hudson Superior Court on the civil case brought by Raia and the Mile Square Taxpayers Association in the 2013 ballot question on rent control; no discussion specifically addressed the issue of chain of custody.

A jury question on bringing sealed ballots to a campaign HQ
didn't address "chain of custody" governance at the federal trial
of Frank Raia on an alleged voter bribery scheme this afternoon.

Talking Ed Note: In 2007, the "do-over" fourth ward city council election between Dawn Zimmer and Chris Campos saw the latter seek to challenge her absentee ballots on chain of custody. One such challenge involved a spouse mailing the ballot of another.

The trial recommences at 9:30 Tuesday where this jury question plus another on whether a campaign operative may "instruct" a voter how to fill out a ballot is considered.

Pupie plea: "Let's make a deal!"

Last Thursday, Frank "Pupie" Raia took to the witness stand to rebut the testimony of former friends and allies alleging he masterminded a massive voter bribery scheme in Hoboken during the 2013 election.

It may not have turned out as well as hoped.

According to well-placed Hoboken sources, the defense team led by attorney Alan Zegas is seeking to make a deal on behalf of his client with the Department of Justice prosecutors.

There's only one problem; the Feds aren't interested.

Frank Raia defense counsel Alan Zegas.

Zegas navigated the infamous BridgeGate case for his client David Wildstein who escaped serving jail time in 2017 by flipping on others in the Christie Administration. He's facing a higher bar with this case.

Federal prosecutors led by Asst. US Attorneys Rahul Agarwal and Sean Farrell presented a strong case of witness testimony against Raia building to a crescendo with a third friend and former ally, Freddie Frazier, closing out the government's case Wednesday afternoon.

After admitting he changed his initial denials to the FBI confessing to his role in a wide-ranging voter fraud bribery scheme, Frazier was asked why he did it by Asst. US Attorney Sean Farrell.

"That's what I was told by Mr. Raia," he said adding that he conveyed to voters they would be backing the "One Hoboken" slate where Raia appeared as a council candidate because "he wanted it real bad." The rent control ballot however which Frazier opposed, was communicated as "optional."

Frazier would admit to delivering the controlled Vote by Mail ballots to the county board of elections and mailing others. He testified that he drove another participating member of the bribery scheme, Liz Camis, to a mailbox on more than one occasion so she could mail her collected ballots in Raia's car.

He then "gave the list of voters... to Mr. Raia" of who to pay with checks of $50 "usually a day after the election."

That's 520 Jefferson and this exclusive photo shows a lineup of people outside waiting to go inside and sign
declarations after the fact with checks allegedly paying $50 for each vote on November 6, 2013, a night after the
Hoboken mayoral election.

Stay tuned here for important updates at the federal trial today.

Talking Ed Note: A word of thanks to readers new and old, especially those who have supported this website over years. Kind thanks for all the encouragement in recent days covering election abuses back to 2009. While not able to get back to everyone who reached out, the mail has been read and is well-received.