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State v. Ferro

Decided: May 16, 1974.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
VINCENT FERRO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Carton, Lora and Seidman. The opinion of the court was delivered by Carton, P.J.A.D.

Carton

This appeal primarily involves the issue of whether, as a prerequisite to conviction under N.J.S.A. 2A:93-6, the State must show that the person charged with giving or receiving money or other thing of value as a bribe was a public official at the time of the offense. Defendant contends that this question must be answered in the affirmative and, consequently, his conviction must be reversed.

Inasmuch as the issue is one of law, we refer only to the salient features of the record.

In one count of the indictment defendant was charged with receiving or offering to receive $250 from one Vincent Salerno as a bribe to obtain, through use of his apparent power and influence, actions by the Probation Department of Hudson

County and dispositions in the New Jersey courts favorable to Salerno. The second count charged that defendant received or offered to receive $500 from one Robert Onysko as a bribe to obtain, through the use of his apparent power and influence, actions by the prosecutor's office and disposition in the New Jersey courts favorable to Onysko.

The State adduced testimony concerning numerous meetings between defendant and Messrs. Salerno and Onysko in which discussions of agreements of the kind charged in the indictment took place. Prior to these meetings body microphones were concealed on Salerno and Onysko with their permission. The conversations were monitored and taped by a detective of the State Police. Testimony by the detective as to the contents of the tapes, corroborated by Salerno and Onysko, constituted the bulk of the State's case.

Defendant testified that he had been the leader of the Democratic party in a certain section of Jersey City since 1950, but held no government position, although he had once been chief security officer for Hudson County. Defendant stated that Salerno had approached him to see what he could do about a postponement and defendant advised him to see an attorney and to obtain letters from reputable citizens in his behalf. He explained that he had introduced Salerno to a doctor because Salerno claimed he was ill. Defendant denied, as maintained by the prosecution's witnesses, that he stated he would secure a medical certificate and would intervene with the probation officer. He further denied receipt of any bribe and stated that Salerno had loaned him $100 and Onysko had loaned him $400. He also claimed that he had rejected a request from Salerno to fix the case, saying to him, "no such possibility existed." He also asserted that both men informed him he was taped and sought to force his cooperation through threats.

The jury found defendant guilty on both counts after deliberating 40 minutes.

The statutory provision under which the indictment was returned against the defendant provides:

Any person who directly or indirectly gives or receives, offers to give or receive, or promises to give or receive any money, real estate, service or thing of value as a bribe, present or reward to obtain, secure or procure any work, service, license, permission, approval or disapproval, or any other act or thing connected with or appertaining to any office or department of the government of the state or of any county, municipality or other political subdivision thereof, or of any public authority, is guilty of a misdemeanor. [ N.J.S.A. 2A:93-6].

The two-count indictment largely parallels the language of the statute charging defendant with committing like offenses with respect ...


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