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Friday, February 5, 2010

Jersey Corruption Trials: Political Crime


A few comments regarding the federal criminal trial of Leona Beldini, Jersey City Deputy Mayor and one-time burlesque dancer.
This trial is about bribery, and it is about Beldini's allegedly criminal conduct.   It is, however, also about the government's principal witness -- who today has the legal name of Solomon Dwek.  

If (1) Dwek's storytelling is the main supporting evidence in the remainder of some several dozen cases to a bunch of videotapes suggesting -- but by no means clearly demonstrating beyond a reasonable doubt -- less than wholesome conduct, (2) the bribes never went to defendant Beldini but instead went to another defendant named Ed Cheatam (as captured on videotape, and who pleaded guilty), and (3) Cheatam was not called as a witness by the prosecution, it suggests that the evidence against Beldini merely suggests she was in bad company, may have been imprudent, foolish or flat out stupid.   But it just does not seem to be anywhere near the conclusive evidence of criminal wrongdoing.   Remember, when the case is about sending someone to jail, the sketchy concept of "probably" does not satisfy the requisite "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard of proof.   Each of the three enumerated items above provide, or at least suggest, the presence of reasonable doubt.

When do we start wondering whether any of the other cases going to trial will be dropped?  

If the evidence, seeming weak in light of the high standard of proof in a criminal trial, is of this caliber, what does this say about all the prosecutioin bluster this past summer?  

Does law enforcement lose some of its hard-fought credibility?  

Did someone just try too hard to make some cases because political corruption cases had sex appeal, both in a political context and career advancement angle?

Were people like Beldini prosecuted, not for actual, provable crimes, but because they were public officials and/or involved in politics?  Did the real crime become engaging in politics?  In other words, were they prosecuted, not for what they did, but for who they were?

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer and strategic consultant for businesses, political campaigns and individuals. Mr. Dixon is available for comment or consultation at edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com and 917-696-2442. 


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