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State v. Smagula

Decided: February 20, 1956.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY
v.
EDWARD R. SMAGULA, CASIMIR IWANICKI, WILLIAM STACHULA, EMIL MIZDOL, ROMAN P. WICHERSKI AND FRANK MONKOWSKI, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Clapp, Jayne and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Clapp, S.j.a.d.

Clapp

The defendants, six members of the Board of Education of the Borough of Wallington, were convicted of bribery under the following statute, N.J.S. 2 A:93-4:

"Any member or officer of any state, county or municipal government, or member of any public authority, board, association, commission or committee, who solicits or receives, directly or indirectly, any money or valuable thing, reward or commission for his vote as a member thereof, is guilty of a misdemeanor."

Cf. State v. Merkle , 82 N.J.L. 172 (Sup. Ct. 1912), reversed 83 N.J.L. 677 (E. & A. 1912). As to the common law of bribery, see State v. Ellis , 33 N.J.L. 102 (Sup. Ct. 1868). The six defendants appeal.

The State's case tended to show these circumstances. On August 2, 1954 the board of education accepted the resignation of the principal of Wallington High School. On August 4, 1954, by pre-arrangement, five of the defendants met Bernard E. Piela, principal of Public School No. 1 in Wallington, driving him to a tavern. There, after some social conversation, one of them, Smagula, said:

"Well let's get down to business. We are here to talk about the high school principalship * * * If you want the job it will cost you $3,000."

Piela asked "What for?" He was told "campaign money"; or (as he later testified) the money was needed, not for Smagula or the group, but for campaign money. Piela replied that he'd give them his answer the next day. His answer the next day was a refusal. The sixth defendant came to Piela some nine days later, aiding and abetting the others. He had this to say:

"This is your last opportunity, and if you want the job it will cost you $2,000."

He, too, declared the money was needed for campaign purposes, though he also stated that he and another defendant wanted no part of the money. Piela again refused; and subsequently another man was given the appointment.

The principal point on the appeal is presented by that portion of the court's charge to the jury in which the court said, after referring to the talk around the table at the tavern:

"There is further evidence of the conversation around the table that the money was to be for campaign funds. Regardless of how they labelled the money or reward that is sufficient evidence from which the jury could find these five defendant Board of Education members directly or indirectly solicited money or reward from Piela for their official votes * * *."

We pass over the fact that the objections to the charge were not made until after the jury had retired. R.R. 4:52-1; J.B. Wolfe, Inc. v. Salkind , 3 N.J. 312, 317 (1949); cf. Jelinek v. Sotak , 9 N.J. 19, 25 ...


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