MAYS LANDING — Logistics could cause the judge to split up the trials of 14 defendants in a voter-fraud case involving an Atlantic City councilman's failed bid for mayor.
But one attorney on Monday questioned whether the difficulty in trying so many defendants at once was enough reason to sever the case, especially since Marty Small and the 13 others are accused of conspiracy.
"If you go up to Trenton and get a courtroom to accommodate 14 people with enough security, I'll put it up to them," Superior Court Judge James Isman told defense attorney Ed Weinstock.
Weinstock is representing Toni Dixon, whose brother, David Callaway, is also a defendant in the case.
Fifteen people were charged last year with voting violations in connection with messenger ballots cast for Small in his mayoral try. One has since pleaded guilty.
Isman gave the remaining defendants until June 7 to decide whether they will take a plea in the case or go to trial. But if all or most of the defendants decide to fight the charges, Isman has indicated he would have the deputy attorneys general who are trying the case pick four defendants to go first.
"I don't have enough security, I don't have enough jury pools and I don't have a courtroom big enough," Isman told Weinstock on Monday.
"I believe there is a recorded decision where administrative purpose is a valid reason to sever," Deputy Attorney General Anthony Picione said.
Isman said there was a recent case that gave a judge leeway to do what is necessary to allow a trial to move forward in a timely and safe manner.
The voter-fraud case has already proven difficult, with massive amounts of evidence that has to be made available to all of the attorneys in the case.
Timothy Reilly, who is representing defendant Floyd Tally, said it's difficult to share the information with his client, who is currently incarcerated in the Southern State Correctional Facility in Cumberland County on a separate conviction. Reilly said a legal representative at the prison told him there was no access to a DVD player for some of the evidence to be shown.
Tally and David Callaway — who is currently incarcerated in Bayside State Prison, also in Cumberland County — were both brought to Atlantic County for the proceeding but were not in the courtroom.
Isman said he could extend the plea deal cutoff of June 7, if, at that time, one of the attorneys gives a valid reason that his or her client would need more time. But, he still wants to begin jury selection in the first trial Aug. 16.
That sets a timeline for defense motions to be filed by July 1, and the state to respond by July 15, he said Monday.
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