Janiszewski pleads guilty to extortion Former county executive says Freeholder Davila-Colon gave bribe
by Al Sullivan Reporter senior staff writer
Oct 04, 2002 | 793 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In what has been perhaps the most anticipated event in recent Hudson County history, former County Executive Robert Janiszewski appeared in federal court in Newark Thursday and admitted taking more than $100,000 in cash bribes.

Janiszewski had disappeared in August of 2001 amidst rumors of a federal probe. After the disappearance, sources explained that Janiszewski had been snagged months earlier in an apparent FBI sting operation and had started cooperating with federal agents to see if he could bring down other local bigwigs.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Janiszewski admitted last week that he had accepted bribes at various times in the mid-1990s. He specifically said that he received $20,000 from Dr. Oscar Sandoval, a psychiatrist who has county contracts, in four $5,000 payments. He said that County Freeholder Nidia Davila-Colon gave him two of the payments on behalf of Sandoval, with whom Davila-Colon had a close relationship.

Janiszewski did not publicly disclose any of the parties from whom he received the other $80,000.

Although Peter Willis, Davila-Colon's attorney, could not be reached by press time for comment, published accounts have him saying Janiszewski's claims are "absolutely untrue." Davila-Colon, who currently is an employee of U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli, could not be reached for comment at the end of last week.

During Thursday morning's plea hearing, Janiszewski admitted he took cash bribe payments in return for approving Hudson County contracts for Dr. Sandoval, who supplies psychological services to several Hudson County facilities. According to Janiszewski, these contracts amounted to somewhere between $800,000 and $1.5 million over the years.

According to Clifford Kuhn Jr., attorney for Dr. Sandoval, his client is "not the target of any investigation." Kuhn said, "Dr. Sandoval has not been charged with anything and is not going to be."

The charges against Janiszewski seemed to focus upon his misuse of office to possibly hold contracts hostage or demand money in exchange for contracts - explaining why he was charged with extortion. There have, as yet, been no indictments, and no other officials have been named. Janiszewski said he will continue to cooperate with federal authorities.

U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie said, "Janiszewski is the one being charged. He's being charged with extortion. Look up the meaning of extortion, and that's what this case is about."

Christie said Janiszewski has been cooperating with authorities involving other officials throughout the state of New Jersey, but would not give a number of possible suspects.

"That would be impossible," he said, noting that the investigation was a continuing process and that his office wanted to keep possible suspects guessing. Christie said that the probe included people from both political parties.

"Janiszewski had an influence that went well beyond Hudson County," Christie said.

When pressed about whether or not Janiszewski had worn a recording device at any time during the investigation, Christie only said: "Mr. Janiszewski has cooperated in this investigation in every way we have asked."

It has been widely speculated that Janiszewski's car had been wired for nine months. Janiszewski was fond of conducting business discussions in his car between appearances.

Sentencing in January

Janiszewski, who is also a former assemblyman and former Democratic Chairman for the county, pleaded guilty to extortion and tax evasion before U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 14 at 10 a.m. Janiszewski faces a possible sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine on the extortion charge and five years in prison and $100,000 fine on the tax evasion charge, according to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey D. Clark and Stuart Rabner. Bail was set at $100,000. Janiszewski could be sentenced to less depending on the level of cooperation he offers investigators in seeking out other corrupt public officials. Whatever sentence Janiszewski receives will have to be served in full. Federal charges offer no chance for parole.

Christie declined to say where Janiszewski is currently living. He also would not comment on how many times Janiszewski had been relocated over the last year during federal custody. Janiszewski used to live in Jersey City.

Janiszewski, who had been credited with modernizing the county when he served as Hudson County executive since 1987, was reportedly picked up in a federal sting operation during the League of Municipalities Convention in November 2000 -- at which point he allegedly agreed to wear some form of listening device. In August 2001, he vanished from the county political scene, presumably taken into federal custody after his role in an investigation became public. He resigned in the beginning of September of 2001.

As county executive, Janiszewski had the power to recommend vendors with whom the county did business. When authorized by the county freeholders, Janiszewski also had the power to enter into contracts with vendors. Over the last several years, the freeholder board, however, through its contracts committee, has become much more wary of recommendations made from the county executive's office, and has established new procedures as to how contracts got bid and awarded.

Meanwhile, a large political fund that Janiszewski had amassed for himself will be distributed among several local charities as part of his plea bargain.
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