Ballarotto granted continuance for discovery time for client
Trial of Trenton Mayor Tony Mack pushed back
By Alex Zdan/The Times updated January 02, 2013 at 9:15 AM
TRENTON — The start date for Mayor Tony Mack’s trial on corruption charges has been pushed back to at least this summer with a continuance order issued by a federal judge.
Initially scheduled to begin Feb. 19, the trial date was moved back to no earlier than June 17, according to the order signed by U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp, who will preside over the case. Mack has said he has no intention of resigning and so would likely remain in office through that time and into the trial itself, which Shipp estimated would take four to five weeks.
In the order signed Dec. 20, Shipp agreed that defense attorneys would need more time to examine wiretap recordings, file motions, and prepare for the trial.
“In light of the serious allegations, the defendants will require considerable time to review discovery, to investigate the charges and to develop possible defenses to the charges,” Shipp wrote.
Mack, his brother Ralphiel Mack and associate Joseph “JoJo” Giorgianni were indicted Dec. 6 and pleaded not guilty to all charges during an arraignment later that month. Giorgianni’s attorney, Jerome Ballarotto, said the continuance was vital to mount an effective defense.
The three are likely to be tried together, said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, who is prosecuting the case.
Shipp designated the legal process a “complex case,” and ordered a freeze through June 17 on the 70-day requirement between arraignment and trial set by the Speedy Trial Act. With another continuance possible and motions in the case also exempt from the time limit, trial commencement isn’t likely until well into the summer, Ballarotto said.
“We need time,” defense attorney Jerome Ballarotto said yesterday. “The government’s had this for a year. We need time to get the discovery.”
Tony Mack’s attorney, Mark Davis, said after the arraignment he was seeking a six-month continuance in the case. Davis could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Mack, who was arrested with his brother and Giorgianni on Sept. 10, faces six counts of extortion, bribery, mail fraud, and wire fraud. He allegedly worked through Giorgianni to seek over $100,000 in bribes from the developer of a proposed automated parking garage in downtown Trenton.
The garage was a sting set up by the FBI, who began investigating Mack just weeks after he took office in July 2010.
The city council will consider an ordinance to slash Mack’s $126,000 salary in half tomorrow. With Trenton on the fiscal year calendar running from July 1 to June 30, approval would mean Mack would not receive any pay for the first half of 2013.
The ordinance was approved in November with four votes, one fewer than the five necessary to withstand Mack’s veto.
During the time the continuance is in effect, the government will need to provide recordings of every conversation recorded from wiretaps maintained by the FBI, which tapped Mack’s phone for nearly six months and Giorgianni’s for longer, Ballarotto said. The defense will also be granted affidavits, transcripts, video, and computer data, the order says.
With the more than four months they’ve been granted, the attorneys will review the information and begin crafting a defense strategy for their clients to ensure they get a fair trial.
“We don’t do this to help the government,” Ballarotto said. “We do this because it’s absolutely necessary.”