Chronology of events leading up to Davila-Colon's conviction

Chronology of events leading up to Davila-Colon's conviction

Sept. 6, 2001
Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski abruptly resigns after 13 years at the helm of county government and disappears. It's later revealed that he had agreed to cooperate with prosecutors after getting caught taking money from a county vendor who was secretly working for the FBI as part of an undercover operation to catch corrupt politicians in Hudson County.

Oct. 18, 2001
Dr. Oscar Sandoval, a Union City psychiatrist who held more than $2 million in contracts to provide psychiatric services to county facilities, denies reports that he was the vendor who was working with the FBI to catch Janiszewski - but it's later revealed that he is.

Feb. 8, 2002
The Jersey Journal finds Janiszewski working at a ski shop near Hunter Mountain, N.Y.

Oct. 3, 2002
Janiszewski pleads guilty to taking more than $100,000 in bribes and testifies that on two occasions in 1999 Hudson County Freeholder Nidia Davila-Colon of Jersey City handed him an envelope containing a $5,000 bribe from Sandoval. Davila-Colon says the allegations are "absolutely untrue" and that she will not resign from the freeholder board.

Oct. 17, 2002
Hudson County Freeholder William Braker of Jersey City unexpectedly resigns from office, effective Nov. 11, amid rumors that he'll soon plead guilty to unspecified federal charges. A week later, Braker says he's "not guilty of anything," but says he wants to step down because he expects to be indicted in connection with the Janiszewski scandal.

Oct. 29, 2002
Davila-Colon is indicted in federal court on two counts of aiding and abetting attempted extortion and three counts of mail fraud for being "part of a scheme to defraud Hudson County government and the citizens of Hudson County."

Nov. 6, 2002
Braker and Davila-Colon are easily re-elected to the Board of Freeholders. A day later, Braker rescinds his resignation.

Nov. 14, 2002
Davila-Colon pleads not guilty to the five charges against her.

Dec. 11, 2002
Braker is arrested and charged with asking for "cash and Viagra" from Sandoval in return for his support.

May 27
Davila-Colon's trial begins in U.S. District Court in Newark, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Clark acting as lead prosecutor. Her defense attorney, Peter Willis, tells the Journal that Davila-Colon didn't know what was in the envelopes she passed to Janiszewski.

Willis also says that Sandoval - who is listed as a witness for the prosecution, but isn't expected to testify - could be called by the defense. He is later under subpoena from the defense but never testifies.

May 28
Judge William G. Bassler rules that the jury of five men and seven women will be permitted to listen to a recorded conversation between Davila-Colon and Sandoval, her married lover who was acting as a government informant, about envelopes she passed to Janiszewski in the mid-1990s, at least three years before the two 1999 incidents that she's charged with.

May 29
Janiszewski testifies that he accepted thousands of dollars in bribes from Sandoval in envelopes passed to him by Davila-Colon. Willis, in cross-examining Janiszewski, argues that Sandoval, while working with the FBI, was "filling Davila-Colon with Xanax," an antianxiety drug, and entrapped her into committing the crimes she's accused of by repeatedly begging her to pass envelopes to Janiszewski.

May 30
Continuing his testimony, Janiszewski says Davila-Colon gave him two envelopes, each containing $5,000, in 1999 - on Sept. 15, at a ceremony honoring Puerto Rican culture at the Brennan Courthouse in Jersey City, the seat of Hudson County government, and a month later at a Democratic fund-raiser at the Harborside Financial Center, also in Jersey City.

He also testifies the first time she passed him money from Sandoval was during a meeting in her dark and closed Second Street political club three years earlier. "'Look, this is from Oscar,'" Janiszewski said Davila-Colon told him. "She said 'Oscar wants it used for the campaign, for yourself, for whatever'. She said it contained $10,000." Davila-Colon wasn't charged in connection with that alleged incident.

Janiszewski also testifies he took tens of thousands of dollars in cash payments during his nearly 13 years as Hudson County executive, from Jay Booth, a onetime financial adviser to the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority and a bond underwriter; Paul Byrne, a political consultant and one of his closest friends; Jerry Lisa, a Hoboken accountant who provided auditing services for the county; Charles Fallon, an accountant who had a contract with the Hudson County Improvement Authority and who prepared Janiszewski's personal income tax returns; and Sam Klein, now deceased, who was an auditor for the county when Janiszewski took office in 1988. None of the men named by Janiszewski have been charged with any wrongdoing.

June 3
In his third day on the stand, Janiszewski is cross-examined by Willis, who rips into his credibility as a witness, calling him "a crook" who broke his oath of office within a year of being elected. "Yes," Janiszewski replies. "I pled guilty to that."

The jury also sees an FBI videotape shot at the Harborside fund-raiser on Oct. 15, 1999, the day that prosecutors say Davila-Colon passed Janiszewski an envelope containing a $5,000 bribe from Sandoval. However, the purported exchange took place out of camera range.

June 4
Willis again pounds away at Janiszewski's integrity, calling him a liar who would say anything to receive a more lenient sentence from the government. He also questions how Janiszewski's wife, Beth - who wasn't charged in the bribery scheme - never discovered more than $88,000 in bribe money that Janiszewski said he kept in a file cabinet in his house.

He also brings up an apparent inconsistency in Janiszewski's testimony: During Janiszewski's plea hearing, eight months earlier, he said that he had turned down many bribe attempts over the years but finally took one when approached by Davila-Colon with $10,000 from Sandoval in 1995 or 1996, but subsequently testified during the Davila-Colon trial that he had been taking bribes throughout his 13-year tenure as executive. Janiszewski replied that he "misunderstood the judge's question" at his plea hearing.

June 5
The jury hears tapes of conversations between Sandoval and Davila-Colon discussing Janiszewski and previous hand-offs by Davila-Colon, though they never refer to bribes or money, only to "envelopes," "stuff" or "the thing." On another tape, Janiszewski tells Sandoval that "if it blows up, it's not me that's going to blow up, it's you." Davila-Colon then says, "Because whatever happens, whatever happens, I get caught in the middle."

June 10
Davila-Colon takes the stand, emotionally testifying throughout the morning about her relationship with Sandoval, then doesn't appear in court after the lunch break. Willis says she suffered chest pains after testifying and was sent to Christ Hospital for tests.

During her testimony, Davila-Colon recounts the origins of her relationship with Sandoval, whom she first saw as a patient in the early 1990s. She said she began seeing Sandoval romantically after the therapy ended - though he continued to prescribe antianxiety and antidepressant drugs for her. She tells the jury that she was "madly in love" with Sandoval and still wears the ring he gave her - describing it as an engagement ring, even though Sandoval was married at the time and still is.

She says that she passed many envelopes to Janiszewski over the years, including some from Sandoval, but assumed they contained correspondence, resumes or legal campaign contributions, not bribes.

June 16
Speaking in his Union City office, Sandoval tells the Journal that Davila-Colon "didn't know the contents" of the first cash-stuffed envelope he gave her, in 1997. He declined to discuss later incidents.

June 17
In a startling reversal, Davila-Colon says she did know that she was passing a cash-stuffed envelope to Janiszewski on Oct. 15, 1999. "I knew that I was doing something illegal, yes," she said. She says she agreed to pass along the bribe because Sandoval had repeatedly begged her to do it, and had told her he was bankrupt and contemplating suicide. However, she also testifies that she didn't know what was in the envelope she had given Janiszewski a month earlier in the Brennan Courthouse.

Testimony concludes in the case, with Davila-Colon repeating her admission from the day before. "In my 20 years in office, I only made one payment," she says. "And I will regret it every day for the rest of my life." Clark also reveals for the first time that Davila-Colon did not file income tax returns from 1998 to 2001, although she subsequently has filed. She was not charged with income tax evasion and did not owe the government any money, instead receiving refunds. Four character witnesses, including Jersey City Councilman Mariano Vega and former Freeholder Neil Carrol of Bayonne, also testify on her behalf.

Bassler then defines entrapment for the jurors - telling them that the defense will be used - as an instance in which a crime is committed by someone not "pre-disposed" to break the law or when that person commits the offense because of "repeated government inducements," and that entrapment is grounds for acquittal.

In closing arguments, Willis gives a theatrical 90-minute summation, calling Janiszewski a "rat" and a "slimeball" whose testimony can't be believed, and Davila-Colon "a woman betrayed" by Sandoval, the man she loved. "Have the women on the jury ever been madly in love with a man?" Willis asks. "Have the men ever really been in love with a woman?"

Clark, in his summation, dismisses the idea that Davila-Colon was a naive woman blinded by love, calling her a tough public official, schooled in the "bare-knuckled politics of Hudson County," who lied to protect her career.

"The defense effort in this case is to dirty up Robert Janiszewski and Oscar Sandoval," Clark says. "But Nidia Colon is the girlfriend of one and the political ally of the other. She is not above them, she is one of them."

After the summations, jury deliberations begin but no decision is made by the end of the day.

The jury deliberates for about six hours before breaking for the day.

The jury convicts Davila-Colon on all five counts after deliberating for about two hours in the morning.

Willis says he will appeal and Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio says he will file a motion in state Superior Court seeking her removal from office immediately.

Davila-Colon faces a maximum of 20 years each on the extortion charges and five on the mail fraud counts when she is sentenced Sept. 29, but will likely receive 31/2 to five years, according to U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie.

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