Former Hudson County Freeholder, Jersey City Police Official Sentenced to 41 Months for Extorting County Vendor

12-22-04 -- Braker, William C. -- Sentencing -- News Release

Former Hudson County Freeholder, Jersey City Police Official Sentenced to 41 Months for Extorting County Vendor

NEWARK - Former Hudson County Freeholder William C. Braker was sentenced today to 41 months in federal prison for extorting $3,000 in payments from a county vendor, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie announced.

Braker, 58, who was also formerly a Deputy Director of the Jersey City Police Department, faced an applicable sentencing range of between 41 and 51 months in prison. Braker would have faced a probable range of between 31 and 41 months in prison. But last month, Braker tried to retract his guilty plea and, because of that, U.S. District Judge John C. Lifland today ruled that Braker had failed to accept responsibility for his crimes, a factor considered under U.S. Sentencing Guidelines in imposing sentence.

"We are very pleased with the sentence," Christie said. "Like other corrupt public officials we've seen, Mr. Braker seems unwilling or unable to recognize his criminality. For that, he's earned more prison time, which is appropriate and should stand as a lesson to other corrupt individuals."

Braker, who was indicted in December 2002 on a seven-count corruption Indictment, pleaded guilty on June 29, just as jury selection was to begin for his trial. He pleaded guilty to Count Three of the Indictment, which charged him with attempted extortion under color of official right.

Braker was a member of the freeholder board since 1987 and a Jersey City police officer until his retirement in 2002, when he was a deputy police director with the rank of lieutenant.

Braker admitted in June that between 1999 and September 2000 he met repeatedly with a vendor of psychiatric services and arranged to accept bribes. In exchange, the vendor was promised his vote of support as a freeholder and influence as a police official in helping the vendor obtain a contract with the police department.

The Indictment charged Braker with accepting three separate bribes. On April 4, 2000, Braker accepted a $2,000 cash bribe payment from the vendor. In June, 2000, Braker told the vendor that before the vendor could obtain a Jersey City Police Department contract, the vendor would have to "show good faith" by providing Braker with $2,000 in cash to purchase two $1,000 tickets to a political fundraiser. Braker was going to make a $1,000 cash contribution himself. Braker subsequently agreed to accept from the vendor a benefit of $1,000 by allowing the vendor to contribute not only $2,000 but also an additional $1,000 to cover the contribution that Braker had intended to make. On Sept. 29, 2000, one day after the Hudson County Board of Freeholders had approved a contract extension for the vendor, Braker accepted a $1,880 corrupt cash payment from the vendor.

After receiving a cash payment on one occasion, the Indictment states that Braker told the vendor, "I try and tell people invest five or six thousand for a three-hundred-thousand-dollar contract; you're way ahead of the game." The vendor received contracts with both Hudson County and the Jersey City Police Department.

Throughout the period that Braker was under investigation, the vendor had been voluntarily cooperating with the FBI. According to the Indictment, numerous conversations between the vendor and Braker were consensually recorded, and two of the three cash payments were captured on video tape as well.

Last month, Braker and his attorneys moved in federal court to take back his guilty plea, expressing his innocence and saying he wanted to go to trial. Judge Lifland, however, denied the motion and scheduled sentencing.

Christie credited Special Agents of the FBI in Newark, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Joseph Billy, Jr., for their work in developing the case.

The Government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Kwon, of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark.


Defense Attorney:

Thomas Ashley, Esq. Jersey City

and Henry Klingeman, Esq. Madison

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