TRENTON — A former defendant in an Atlantic County civil case testified he knew everything was over when he saw Superior Court Judge Steven Perskie laughing about him with the plaintiff’s attorneys.
Perskie, who retired Feb. 1, is accused of ethics violations pertaining to the case against Alan Rosefielde. A hearing began Monday before the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, which will decide whether Perskie’s conduct was unethical in the case that started when the owners of Atlantic City's Flagship Resort fired and then sued Rosefielde, their chief operating officer, in early 2005.
The complicated case included allegations by Rosefielde that one-time resort power broker Edward DiNicolantonio, known as Eddie DeNic, threatened a bad revaluation for the condo complex unless it rehired his nephew’s insurance firm, Frank J. Siracusa and Son.
Candace Moody, disciplinary counsel on the advisory committee, charges that Perskie never fully revealed his previous personal and business relationship with Siracusa, then refused to give the case to another judge because of it.
Even after transferring the case for another reason, Perskie sat in on the trial before another judge, and spoke with the plaintiff’s attorneys Edwin Jacobs Jr. and Louis Barbone during a break in testimony.
In opening arguments, Perskie’s attorney, Frank Corrado, said that Perskie attended the May 22, 2007, hearing because he wanted to see an expert witness who was testifying.
But Moody presented three witnesses Monday who insisted Perskie was not there for that testimony, but came the day before, when Rosefielde testified.
Rosefielde said he was testifying May 16, 2007, in the case now before Judge William Nugent, and wondered why Perskie was there. When Perskie showed up again May 21, Rosefielde watched during the break as Jacobs, Barbone and plaintiff Bruce Kaye spoke with the judge.
“Jacobs, in a very loud voice intended for me to hear it, said, ‘I had Rosefielde on the stand for six to eight days,’” Rosefielde testified Monday. “‘I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed watching him squirm.’”
Then the four men — including Perskie — laughed, Rosefielde testified.
“It’s over,” Rosefielde said he told his attorney, Steven Fram. “We lost. It’s fixed. Let’s just minimize our losses.”
Earlier, Fram testified about the pretrial part of Kaye v. Rosefielde that Perskie handled.
Fram said Perskie first mentioned a relationship with Siracusa on Oct. 12, 2005, despite previously rendering a decision on a motion that mentioned Siracusa. Transcripts from that hearing show Perskie said only that the firm provided some of his insurance and “at one point in my career, many years ago, Siracusa was associated with me in some of my endeavors in public office.”
In a subsequent mention of Perskie’s history with Siracusa, Fram said, the judge again downplayed how friendly the two were, and the defense “trusted him at his word.”
But after Perskie mentioned at a Sept. 8, 2006, hearing that he would see Siracusa at lunch about twice a month, Fram moved to have the judge removed from the case.
Perskie denied that motion Oct. 6, 2006, and then mentioned having played bridge with Siracusa until a few years before.
“That sort of amplified our concerns that appropriate disclosure had not been made,” Fram said.
Perskie did eventually transfer the case, attributing it to mishandling an issue with Fram.
The reasoning was insulting, Fram testified Monday.
Even with the case before another judge, Fram said Perskie was still keeping his hand in it by showing up twice — and sitting on the plaintiff’s side of the courtroom.
“I think that was sending a message to Judge Nugent,” Rosefielde testified. “What Judge Nugent did with that message, I don’t know.”
The plaintiffs in that case were eventually awarded nearly $1 million in fees and penalties, winning on all but one issue. The decision is being appealed.
Perskie will testify today when the defense takes its turn.
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