Ronald Callaway

Ronald Callaway

Danny Drake

An appellate court decision could shorten the terms of two of three men convicted in a blackmail scheme against an Atlantic City councilman. But one of the two already died in prison.

Floyd Tally and David and Ronald Callaway were convicted in October 2009 in the plan that included hiring a prostitute to seduce then-Councilman Eugene Robinson in 2006 and use a video of the encounter to blackmail him into resigning.

Robinson was targeted after turning away from former Atlantic City political powerhouse Craig Callaway, who was sentenced under a plea deal in the case that added no time to an unrelated federal case. He has completed his term.

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The three defendants filed several appeals to the case, including charges that they were not given a fair trial and that the sentences were excessive.

While the appellate judges found the terms were not excessive, they did find that consecutive terms given to Tally and Ronald Callaway — who went by Jihad Q. Abdullah — should have been concurrent.

That would mean Ronald Callaway would have had a straight five-year sentence, with two years until he would have been eligible for parole, said Sarah Weinstock, partner in the firm that represented Callaway. Under that scenario, Callaway — whose incarceration date is listed as Dec. 17, 2009 — would have been eligible for parole Dec. 17, 2011. He died in prison three months later, March 17 of this year, just nine days before his 56th birthday.

“We were happy with the fact that we were successful in reversing the sentencing on behalf of Ronald Callway,” Weinstock said. “Unfortunately, he’s not here to be able to reap those benefits. Our condolences go out to the Callaway family.”

Ronald’s brother David was paroled Dec. 20, 2010, after serving just less than a year in prison.

Tally remains jailed, having received a total of 12 years in prison: an eight-year sentence and consecutive four years. But under the ruling, the sentences would run concurrently. It was not clear when Tally would be eligible for parole. He was represented by a public defender in the appeal. The state Office of the Public Defender declined to comment on the case.

The judges also ruled that the three should have been just one count of conspiracy, not four. That does not appear to alter the sentences in any way.

“All the acts performed by defendants furthered a general and unified plan to discredit Eugene Robinson,” the judges wrote.

Most of the decisions made by Superior Court Judge Albert Garofolo were upheld in the 61-page decision, including the decision that David Callaway waited too long to ask for his brother Craig to be brought in from prison as a defense witness.

No re-sentencing was ordered, but the judgment of conviction for the men will be amended, the panel ruled.

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