Ballarotto argues for plea reduction

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Live coverage: Joseph ‘JoJo’ Giorgianni is sentenced inTrenton federal court

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Joseph “JoJo” Giorgianni arrives for sentencing at the federal courthouse in Trenton, Sept. 26, 2014. (Martin Griff | Times of Trenton)
Jenna Pizzi | Times of Trenton By Jenna Pizzi | Times of Trenton
on September 26, 2014 at 9:30 AM, updated September 26, 2014 at 11:43 AM

Ballarotto Law note: Mr. Ballarotto successfully argued down Mr. Giorgianni’s plea agreement from a possible 12-1/2 year sentence to 6-1/2 years.

TRENTON – The man who accepted bribes on behalf of former Trenton Mayor Tony Mack is appearing in court Friday morning where he is to be sentenced on corruption and drug related charges.

Joseph “JoJo” Giorgianni met with the purported developers of a downtown parking garage development — Lemuel Blackburn and Hudson County developer Harry Seymour — at JoJo’s Steak House in Trenton, accepting bribe money to give to Mack.

Giorgianni, 65, pleaded guilty in December admitting he took the bribe money and passed it off to Mack.

Mack and his brother Ralphiel were found guilty after a month-long trial in February and were sentenced to jail. Tony Mack is currently serving a four year and 10 month sentence at a West Virginia prison camp.

Giorgianni was also charged with running a painkiller distribution ring from the steak shop along with his longtime companion and caretaker Mary Manfredo. Giorgianni pleaded guilty to a charge associated with the drug scheme and weapon possession. An ex-convict, Giorgianni is not allowed to have a weapon.
Giorgianni was convicted in 1982 of debauching the morals of a minor in connection with the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl which occurred at JoJo’s Steak House. Giorignni was released from prison during that sentence after concerns arose that the then-565 pound Giorgianni would die in the prison cell with no air conditioning.

Co-defendant Charles Hall III is also scheduled to be sentenced Friday for his admitted role as a buffer between mayor Mack and the scheme. Hall eventually agreed to work with the FBI during the investigation and testified he had several failed attempts to pass off bribe money to Mack. Hall also pleaded guilty to drug offenses for his involvement in the painkiller distribution ring and lying to federal agents about taking bribe money.
Stay with The Times as we provide live updates from the hearing. Please refresh this page to see the latest.

10:51 a.m.: The hearing has concluded.
10:48 a.m.: Ballarotto asks Shipp to recommend to the Bureau of Prisons to place Giorgianni in a warmer environment. Shipp said he will leave the designation of prison to the Bureau of Prisons.
10:46 a.m.: Giorganni sentenced to 78 months in prison
10:45 a.m.: Shipp said he believes that Giorgianni should go to jail and disagrees withBallarotto’s suggestion that he will not reoffend.
“It is clear that Mr. giorgianni has a criminal propensity of a much younger man,” Shipp said.
10:41 a.m.: Giorgianni speaks briefly saying he is sorry.
“I am sorry I hurt my city,” he said.
10:40 a.m.: Moran argues that probation or house arrest are not appropriate.
10:38 a.m.: Ballarotto is again asking for Giorgianni to be kept on house arrest as an alternative sentence
“He has done everything that he could do to correct what he did,” Ballarotto said.
10:30 a.m.: Ballarotto said Giorgianni’s ailments are in every part of his body.
“Could the Bureau of Prisons take care of him? I’m sure they could,” Ballarotto said. “I’m sure they could find some place where he would survive –the question is, should they?”
10:24 a.m.: Ballarotto is now arguing for Shipp to consider Giorgianni’s physical health, saying when Giorgianni was sent to a federal medical prison in Massachusetts, he he’d swelling in his leg as a result of not getting his medication or begin properly cared for while in the prison.
10:21 a.m.: Shipp disagrees with Ballarotto’s request for a substantial departure, but said he will give him a slight reduction for putting himself at risk when pleading guilty.
10:18 a.m.: Ballarotto is asking for probation, but Moran says that is way to little of a punishment for Giorgianni.
“You don’t get to make statements that you want to convert the city of Trenton and run it like Tammany Hall and you don’t get to liken yourself to Boss Tweed and then say that you are singally responsible for the political helath of the city,” Moran said. “That is what is troubling to the government.”
10:14 a.m.: Ballarotto argues that without GIorgianni’s cooperation US Attorney Paul Fishman would have had to stand on the steps of the courthouse apologizing to the people of Trenton that they could not get a conviction against Tony Mack.
“Joe Giorgianni has the sole responsibility for cleaning this city of a crooked politician,” Ballarotto said.
10:09 a.m.: Ballarotto said Giorgianni was extremely helpful in the prosecution of this case, even if he didn’t take the stand.
Giorgianni was ready to testify as called, go under oath and tell the truth, Balarotto said. But even though he wasn’t called into court before the jury, Ballarotto said Giorgianni was still integral.
“His testimony is all over the record and what did it get him this is,” Ballarotto said holding up a picture of the rat sign that was placed near Giorgianni’s house, the steak house and Ballarotto’s office after he pleaded guilty.
10:02 a.m.: Ballarotto is arguing that Giorgianni deserves less time because of his “extraordinary extraordinary nature of Mr. Giorgiannis cooperation” in both the narcotics distribution and bribery case. Ballarotto said Shipp must identify the “sacrifice, the danger” that GIorgianni endured when pleading guilty.
“We explained to your honor, where we felt Mr Giorgianni was crucial to the cooperation of this case,” Ballarotto said.
“Going to jail, you go to jail 5 years 10 years, whatever,” Ballarotto said. “This is forever.”
“That is a real threat and that is forever especially for a man like Joe, who is part of Trenton lure, he has been here forever, his family has been here forever,” Ballarotto said.
9:55 a.m.: Both Moran and Ballarotto argue that Giorgianni was not a leader or organizer in the prescription oxycodone distribution ring, as the probation office determined in their pre-sentencing report. Shipp agrees that he was more of a manager, not a boss. This change will lower the “offense level” calculation which is used to determine the sentence.
9:50 a.m.: Judge Michael Shipp has entered the courtroom and is about to begin the hearing.
9:35 a.m.: Giorgianni is being brought into the court room and he is assisted as he walks to the defense table to be seated next to Ballarotto.
9:32 a.m.: Giorgianni’s attorney Jerome Ballarotto is in the court room. So are Assistant US Attorneys Eric Moran and Matthew Skahill. Giorgianni is not yet in the court room, but he is just outside in the hallway. He should be brought in shortly.
Jenna Pizzi may be reached at jpizzi@njtimes.com. Follow her on Twitter@JennaPizzi. Find The Times of Trenton on Facebook.

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