CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Former Wildwood Mayor Gary DeMarzo, charged with official misconduct, entered a not guilty plea Thursday.
The plea came during DeMarzo’s first court appearance since being indicted a second time by a Cape May County grand jury.
During Thursday’s hearing, defense attorney Louis Barbone entered a not guilty plea on DeMarzo’s behalf and then told Superior Court Judge Albert Garofolo that he intended to file a motion to dismiss this latest indictment.
“There’s absolutely no new discovery,” Barbone said of the evidence in the case.
DeMarzo said the lack of any new evidence made the new indictment suspect.
“It’s very profound that there is no new evidence in a case he’s calling entirely different,” DeMarzo said outside the courthouse.
DeMarzo added that he believes the criminal case was an attempt by Prosecutor Robert Taylor to silence DeMarzo regarding an alleged excessive force case involving Wildwood Police Capt. Robert Regalbuto. While he was mayor, DeMarzo attempted to get a video tape of the interaction between Regalbuto and a suspect that was filmed in Wildwood, but a court ruling found the tape should not be turned over to him.
The taped incident did not result in any criminal charges or disciplinary action against then-Sgt. Regalbuto.
DeMarzo called Taylor’s management of the case inept and added, “Unfortunately, it’s the taxpayers who will pay for it.”
Taylor did not wish to comment on DeMarzo’s remarks.
DeMarzo, who also worked as a Wildwood police officer from 1998 to 2010, was initially indicted in March 2011 for allegedly using public money to pay for his personal legal expenses.
That indictment was dismissed in April by Superior Court Judge Albert Garofolo who deemed the grand jury presentation “fundamentally unfair.”
In his ruling, Garofolo said some evidence was never presented to the grand jury, depriving the grand jury of its decision making function. Taylor called Garofolo’s ruling “not legally correct.”
That first indictment played a role in the city’s May 2011 elections.
DeMarzo’s opponents ran ads that borrowed from the popular Got Milk? campaign.
“Got indicted?? Your Mayor Did,” read an advertisement paid for by a group called Support Our Police.
A second grand jury then opted to hand up a new indictment in June charging DeMarzo with second-degree and third-degree official misconduct along with the fourth-degree crimes of criminal contempt (for disobeying a court order) and corruption of public resources.
The indictment alleges that between November 2009 and March 24, 2010, DeMarzo defied a court ruling by Superior Court Judge Valerie Arnstrong and “approved payment of legal expenses from City of Wildwood funds” to Samuel Lashman for his personal legal expenses in excess of $200.
Those costs were the result of a lawsuit he filed against Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr., Commissioner Bill Davenport, attorney Marcus Karavan and the city, the indictment says.
According to the indictment, “Gary DeMarzo did, in violation of the court order, provide Samuel Lashman Esq., with public funds to pay legal expenses and costs.”
When Garofolo dismissed the first indictment, he said that if all the evidence had been presented to a grand jury it would have likely not found that any unauthorized acitivity took place.
DeMarzo said what he planned to do, discussed the issue at a public meeting and made a budget request which was approved by the other commissioners, Garofolo said.
DeMarzo will return to court Sept. 10.
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