Jurors in the May 3 corruption trial of former 9th District Assemblyman Daniel M. Van Pelt will not be watching every bite of his meals with an undercover FBI witness.
U.S. District Court Judge Joel A. Pisano ruled Monday against the defense's request to force federal prosecutors to show its surveillance tapes in their entirety - "literally hours of video," U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman wrote in an April 12 memo to the court.
The Republican former assemblyman and Ocean Township mayor is accused of accepting a $10,000 payment in exchange for using his influence to help Solomon Dwek, whom he knew as real estate developer David Esenbach, get fast government approval for a project. Van Pelt has maintained his innocence.
The defense wanted to give context to Van Pelt's discussions with Dwek. The full video, most of it shot at restaurants, would show how Dwek's conversation about other "mundane" matters lulled Van Pelt "into a sense of security" by the time the purported real estate development was mentioned, according to a defense motion.
The defense can identify specific segments of video it wants the jury to watch, Pisano said Monday.
Fishman's office declined comment on Monday's hearing. Michael Gilberti, an attorney for Van Pelt, did not return a call seeking comment.
Van Pelt was one of 44 people arrested in a statewide corruption sting July 23. A week later he resigned as assemblyman and as administrator of Lumberton Township in Burlington County. He was indicted in December on charges of extortion and accepting corrupt payments, and he faces as long as 30 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Former Ocean County Democratic leader Alfonso Santoro pleaded guilty in December to helping Dwek get in touch with Van Pelt, taking a $6,500 bribe for his efforts.
Santoro faced as long as five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Taking into account the defendant's health problems, Pisano instead levied a $10,000 fine and a three-year probation sentence and ordered him to forfeit the $6,500.
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