Hoboken politico Frank “Pupie” Raia will once again face a federal judge now that the U.S Attorney’s Office won its appellate case to have him resentenced.
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 weakened rent-control laws.
According to court documents and the evidence at trial, from October 2013 through November 2013, Raia instructed Hoboken residents 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 applications and 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 Raia and in favor of the referendum loosening rent-control laws.
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.
They were also instructed to sign declarations stating that they had been paid in exchange for working on the campaign when they hadn’t.
He was convicted by a jury in June of 2019. The felony charge could have resulted in a prison term of up to five years and a $250,000 fine, but in December of 2019 U.S. District Court of New Jersey Judge William Martini sentenced Raia to three months in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Charitable work a factor
Martini said his sentencing was based in part on the number of letters sent to the court on Raia’s behalf, which reflected Raia’s charity over the years, as well as his health issues.
But the US Attorney apparently thought Raia got off too easily and appealed the sentence, claiming procedural error and contesting that the district court miscalculated Raia’s offense level under sentencing guidelines.
Now, according to the April 6 opinion by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third District Chief Judge D. Brooks Smith, Raia will be resentenced.
“Because the District Court erred in its interpretation of the Guidelines, we will vacate the sentence and remand for resentencing,” states the judge in the 25-page opinion.
According to court documents, Raia’s attorneys argued that errors in the guidelines’ calculation were “harmless” because it is “highly likely” that the District Court would impose the same sentence under the correct sentencing guidelines.
“Raia submits that any errors committed by the District Court are harmless in light of the three-month sentence imposed … In other words, the Guidelines did not inform the District Court’s sentence at all because the Court deemed them to be too punitive,” states the opinion.
But the Appellate Court disagreed.
“The District Court made multiple errors in its interpretation of the Guidelines that affect the calculation of Raia’s offense level,” states Smith. “Raia has not met his heavy burden to show that these errors are harmless. We will vacate Raia’s sentence and remand to the Court for resentencing.”
Raia has already served his three-month sentence.
Raia reported to Fairton Federal Correctional Institution in March 2020 and was due to be released upon completion of his sentence on May 20, 2020, but due to fears that he could contract COVID-19 because of preexisting conditions, he was released early and served the last few weeks of his sentence under house arrest.