A chatty Byrne zings Bobby J and wife Beth

A chatty Byrne zings Bobby J and wife Beth

October 16, 2003 Jersey Journal

NEWARK - As one of Hudson County's best-known back-room political operators and once the bosom buddy of former Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski, Paul Byrne can usually be counted on for an outrageous quip, an off-color joke or a thundering accusation.

Yesterday, as he left the federal courthouse shortly after his initial appearance on fraud and extortion charges, the 57-year-old Jersey City resident dished out a little bit of all three, with most of his comments directed squarely at Janiszewski and his wife, Beth.

"O.K., I'm guilty," he declared. "Guilty of being Bob Janiszewski's friend for 50 years."

Byrne, who is accused by the government of collecting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes for Janiszewski, his childhood friend, and keeping quite a bit for himself as well, portrayed his indictment as being based on nothing more than the lies of the disgraced former powerbroker who became a cooperating witness for the federal government after being caught accepting a bribe and who secretly tape-recorded conversations with Byrne and others.

Janiszewski pleaded guilty last October to taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes while in office from 1988 to 2001, and he already has testified at one corruption trial.

"It's his second career," Byrne said. "Rent out your friends. This is his get-out-of-jail free card."

In a freewheeling chat with several reporters on the first floor of the federal courthouse, Byrne also said Janiszewski gave him up to spare his wife from legal trouble.

Byrne's attorney, John Coyle, agreed.

"It is another attempt by the government's witness, Robert Janiszewski, to shift blame for his greed and corrupt political leadership in an attempt to further his own interests and to protect his wife from prosecution," Coyle said of the charges, to which Byrne is expected to plead innocent.

Beth Janiszewski, who was also active politically and once worked for the state, has never been charged with any wrong-doing. She could not be located for comment yesterday and a message left for Robert Janiszewski's attorney, Bruce Goldstein, was not returned.

Though he is cooperating with the government, Janiszewski still faces jail time on the extortion charges he pleaded to.

Byrne, however, said he believes Janiszewski, who owns homes in ski resort towns in New York and Colorado, will emerge from the ongoing corruption probe in Hudson County with his money and his property, pleasantly sipping his favorite drink - Dewar's and soda - and lounging on the slopes.

"I predict in three years he'll be on the Larry King show talking about how he cleaned up New Jersey," Byrne said.

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