CAMDEN — Jayson Adams said he did not make a mistake when he organized a venture to sell school board votes.
“Mistakes are unintentional,” he told the judge at his sentencing Friday. “What I did was intentional.”
But his intentions changed after federal agents came calling, and his cooperation — including testifying against three co-defendants — helped lessen his potential sentence of 6½ years in prison to 2½ years.
That cooperation includes an undisclosed case that went before a Trenton grand jury just a few weeks ago, according to information released during Friday’s proceeding. The U.S. Attorney’s Office would not comment on that case but has indicated before that the corruption investigation is ongoing.
Adams was among 11 men — including five Pleasantville school board members — arrested Sept. 6, 2007, after they received money in exchange for supporting contracts. The then-Board of Education president admitted he set things up between the company he believed to be an insurance brokerage and the men they were bribing. He also received $62,000 in bribes within six months.
The endeavor eventually led to additional arrests, including a former high-ranking official in the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“I have to apologize first and foremost to the citizens of Pleasantville who put me in office,” Adams said Friday. “The constituents, the children who looked up to me, and — last but not least — my family.”
Adams’ remorse was immediate, defense attorney Harold Shapiro said. Even before FBI agents came to his home and placed him in cuffs, he was giving them information about what he and the others had done.
“He gets high marks for the timing of his assistance,” U.S. District Court Judge Jerome Simandle said. “His assistance came even before charges were filed against him.”
Adams testified twice before Simandle, at the trials of Pleasantville resident Louis Mister and one-time fellow board member James McCormick.
In the McCormick case, “That was particularly valuable testimony,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Gramiccioni said, pointing out that McCormick was never captured on tape during the investigation.
A jury found McCormick guilty on all counts, and he was sentenced to 3½ years in prison.
But Adams’ testimony may not have been as convincing in the Mister trial, where the jury returned a mixed verdict, acquitting him of two counts, including conspiracy. Simandle pointed out that, during cross-examination, public defender Lisa Van Hoeck showed Adams “failed to disclose certain acts of dishonesty he may have committed in the past.”
Gramiccioni acknowledged that, but said, “I don’t have any reason to present to the court that Mr. Adams intentionally misrepresented himself.”
Adams also testified against former Passaic City Councilman Jonathan Soto, who was convicted in February. He is set to be sentenced next week. And Adams provided a recorded statement to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office “related to a case that has been in the newspaper a lot ... in Atlantic County,” Shapiro told the judge.
Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel declined comment beyond what was said in court. Adams’ co-defendant Maurice “Pete” Callaway also helped the Prosecutor’s Office by providing information against his brother Craig Callaway in a blackmailing scheme involving the taping an Atlantic City councilman receiving a sex act from a prostitute. It was not clear if Adams’ interview was related.
Adams was just 24 when he was chosen as the board’s president in 2005. James Pressley, a co-defendant in the case, became vice president at that time. He was 20.
Simandle pointed to Adams’ intelligence, charm and power of persuasion during the court hearing, saying that may make his crime worse because he used those gifts for bad.
But Shapiro said that has been tempered by what Adams has done since in helping the government prosecute its case.
Several supporters spoke on Adams’ behalf, including his father and new wife. In marriage, he has become a stepfather.
“I’m not about individualism anymore,” he told the judge. “I have people who depend on me.”
Adams will remain free until the federal Bureau of Prisons assigns him to a facility. Upon completion of his sentence, he will have three years’ supervised release. He was fined $12,500 and has agreed to forfeit the $62,000 he received in bribes. Although, Gramiccioni told the judge — considering Adams’ finances — he does not have high hopes that the government will receive that money.
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