U.S. Attorney’s Office appeals Frank Raia sentencing

The case continues for Hoboken's "Pupie" Raia

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U.S. Attorney’s Office appeals Frank Raia sentencing
Frank Raia could see a longer prison sentence now that federal prosecutors filed a notice of appeal.

The US Attorney apparently thinks Frank “Pupie” Raia got off too easy.

US Attorney Craig Carpenito is appealing the three month sentence of the Hoboken developer and politico, who was sentenced to prison last month after he was convicted for his part of in a vote-by-mail bribery scheme during the 2013 municipal election.

Raia was facing a potential prison term of up to five years and a $250,000 fine.

”The United States of America hereby appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit from the District Court’s judgment of sentence,” states the Jan. 2 notice of appeal submitted by Carpenito and certified by Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of the Appeals Division Mark E. Coyne.

In a criminal case, the federal government can appeal the sentencing of a defendant.

The case

Raia was at the center of a vote-by-mail bribery scheme in which he directed campaign workers to pay residents $50 for voting for his council slate and for a referendum that would have amended the local rent-control laws.

In 2013, Raia was a candidate for Hoboken City Council. During that election, there was a race for mayor and for three at-large council seats, as well as the referendum which if passed would have weakened the rent control laws in favor of landlords.

The winners of the election were Mayor Dawn Zimmer and then-council members James Doyle, Ravi Bhalla, and David Mello. A third group also ran with Councilman Ruben Ramos for mayor at the head of that slate.

During that time Raia chaired the Let the People Decide PAC, which worked to loosen rent-control laws, but the referendum failed.

According to court documents and the evidence at trial, from October 2013 through November 2013, Raia instructed Hoboken residents Dio Braxton, Matt Calicchio, Lizaida Camis, and others who worked for his campaign, to pay certain Hoboken voters $50 if they applied for and cast mail-in ballots in the 2013 municipal election.

These workers provided these voters with vote-by-mail (VBM) applications, then delivered or mailed the completed VBM applications to the Hudson County Clerk’s office.

After the mail-in ballots were delivered to the voters, Raia directed workers to go to the voters’ residences and instruct them to vote for him and in favor of the referendum.

These workers promised the voters that they would be paid $50 for casting their mail-in ballots and told them that they could pick up their checks after the election at Raia’s office.

Th government charged that Raia and his workers, including Braxton, Calicchio, Camis, and others, checked the ballots to ensure that the residents had voted the way they were instructed. They were also instructed to sign declarations stating that they had been paid in exchange for working on the campaign, which was false.

After the election, the voters received $50 checks from a political consulting firm that was paid by Raia’s PAC.

Those $50 checks were never disclosed on Raia’s publicly filed PAC election reports.

Braxton and Camis previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy, and Calicchio pleaded guilty to violating the federal Travel Act.

A jury convicted Raia of conspiracy to violate the federal Travel Act for causing the mails to be used in aid of voter bribery” after roughly three days of deliberation on June 25.

After his conviction, his attorneys filed a motion for a retrial, but the motion was denied.

Appeals process

The felony charge could have resulted in a prison term of up to five years and a $250,000 fine, but U.S. Judge William Martini sentenced Raia to serve only three months in prison and one year of supervised release. He also ordered Raia to pay a fine of $50,000.

The court also recommended that Raia be sent to a facility “that can handle his many health issues.”

At the time of Raia’s sentencing, Judge Martini said his sentencing was based in part on the number of letters sent to the court on Raia’s behalf, which cited Raia’s charitable activities over the years.

Appeals are first heard by a panel consisting of three circuit court judges after parties file briefs to the court, which argue why the trial court’s decision should or should not be changed. After the briefs are filed, the court could decide the appeal based on the briefs alone, or schedule oral arguments in which the lawyers come before the court to make their arguments and answer the judge’s questions.

But as of Jan. 10, no briefs were filed and no schedule  for the appeal before the Third Circuit court of appeals was set.

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.

 

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