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N.J. mayor's lawyer says no proof he took bribes as trial closes

Source: Reuters - Fri, 7 Feb 2014 00:41 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Dave Warner

TRENTON, N.J., Feb 6 (Reuters) - The defense lawyer for the mayor of New Jersey's capital, charged with corruption over development of a parking garage on city-owned property, told a federal jury in closing arguments on Thursday there was no proof his client ever took a bribe.

Trenton Mayor Tony Mack faces bribery and extortion charges after becoming ensnared in a 2010 sting operation with would-be developers who were actually government informants.

Under the scheme, the developers would buy city property for the garage for $100,000 less than the land was worth, and the Democratic mayor would receive money in exchange, prosecutors say.

"Show me the money that Tony Mack received in exchange for his official influence," said defense attorney Mark Davis in his closing argument to the jury in U.S. District Court in Trenton.

"Where's the evidence? They don't have it, because it never happened," Davis said. Mack has pleaded not guilty and remained in office despite the charges.

Prosecutors say the informants offered a bribe of $119,000, about $54,000 of which changed hands.

The mayor's brother Ralphiel also is on trial, accused of acting as a bag man to pick up the bribe money.

Mack, 48, remains in office. He and his brother are charged with extortion, accepting bribes and scheming to defraud.

Arrested in September 2012, Mack has been accused by critics of nepotism and mismanagement since taking office in 2010 in the crime-plagued, economically depressed city of 85,000 people. He was reportedly deeply in debt at the time of his arrest.

The jury was expected to begin deliberations on Friday morning.

Mack's defense attorney laid blame on a third man, Joseph Giorgianni, who also was accused of being a go-between in the scheme. He has pleaded guilty and is a cooperating federal witness awaiting sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Skahill told the jury in his rebuttal that the many wire-tapped telephone conversations in the case showed solid evidence of Mack's guilt.

The prosecution contends that Mack used other people - his brother and Giorgianni - in an attempt to shield himself from culpability.

The prosecutor reminded the jury that in 2012 Ralphiel Mack was found with $2,500 in marked bills in his pocket.

"The money was in his pants," he said. (Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Osterman)

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