NEWARK, N.J. (AP/1010 WINS) — Hoboken’s former mayor expressed “profound regret” Thursday as he received a two-year prison term for accepting bribes last year from a federal informant posing as a crooked real estate developer.
“I want to apologize for the disappointment I have caused,” Peter Cammarano III said in brief remarks to U.S. District Judge Jose Linares. “I let down friends, my family and supporters and the people of the city of Hoboken. I truly believe I have no one to blame but myself. I will spend the rest of my days, whatever comes, making amends for my conduct in this case.”
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Cammarano pleaded guilty in April to extortion conspiracy and faced up to 2 1/2 years in prison under terms of a plea agreement. The maximum sentence for the crime is 20 years.
At 32, Cammarano became Hoboken’s youngest mayor last summer and was considered a rising star in the Democratic Party. But three weeks after he took office he was arrested, and he resigned a week later. He eventually admitted taking $25,000 from informant Solomon Dwek in exchange for promises to help Dwek build in Hoboken.
On Thursday, Linares gave Cammarano a sentence at the lower end of a range determined by federal guidelines, but declined to reduce the sentence further as urged by Joseph Hayden, Cammarano’s attorney. Hayden argued that Cammarano was inexperienced with campaign fundraising practices and that in the pressure of a hotly contested mayoral race “one’s judgment can become warped.”
“At the end of the day, these crimes of taking money for exercising official influence are based on greed,” Linares responded as he pronounced sentence. “When these things happen, our public begins to question the integrity of our political leaders.”
Federal agents arrested Cammarano last summer along with nearly two dozen other public officials — from building inspectors to state legislators — in the largest single corruption bust in the state’s checkered political history. Prominent Orthodox Jewish leaders in Brooklyn and Deal, N.J., also were arrested and charged with money laundering.
Nearly half of the more than 40 defendants have pleaded guilty, and two — former state Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt and former Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini — were convicted at trial. Several other defendants face trials later this year.
Hayden portrayed Cammarano on Thursday as an exemplary public servant who overcame a troubled childhood to achieve success in the legal and political arenas. His acceptance of money from Dwek — all of which was used for his campaign, Hayden said — was a “catastrophic mistake for which he has accepted responsibility.”
Since his arrest, Cammarano’s wife has left him, his friends have largely deserted him and he has been unable to find work other than volunteering at a homeless shelter in Hoboken, the attorney added. His law license has been suspended.
The portrait was in stark contrast to the one offered last year by prosecutors in excerpts of meetings taped by Dwek, in which a brash Cammarano allegedly told Dwek his political opponents would be “ground into powder” were he elected.
The tapes “show no hesitation to trade official influence and action for bribes” and to hide the true source of the money to avoid breaking election laws, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Howe said Thursday.
Linares set a Sept. 20 date for Cammarano to report to prison.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)