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In re Sabatino

Decided: July 30, 1974.

IN THE MATTER OF ARTHUR SABATINO, AN ATTORNEY AT LAW


For disbarment -- Chief Justice Hughes, and Justices Jacobs, Mountain, Sullivan, Pashman and Clifford. Opposed -- None.

Per Curiam

This disciplinary case grows out of an alleged conspiracy to bribe public officials of Jackson Township. It has this factual background:

In 1970, Doral Construction Company, the principals of which were Frank Vogel, Murray Eisdorfer and Morris Rattner, owned a senior citizens apartment complex in Jackson Township which had been constructed under a use variance grant that restricted occupancy to persons over 62 years of age.

Apparently there was an insufficient demand for this type of occupancy and the owners were confronted with substantial vacancies and resultant serious financial problems. Consequently, apartments were rented to persons regardless of age. At about the same time formal applications were filed to have the restriction lifted.

The Township took no final action on these applications. Instead, in 1969, it filed suit in the Superior Court, Ocean County, and obtained an order directing Doral to remove all tenants under 62 years of age by December 31, 1969, and imposing a fine of $500 per week thereafter until compliance was had. When respondent was consulted by Vogel in March 1970, some $4,500 in fines had already accumulated.

Respondent testified that Vogel retained him essentially to have the restriction lifted. Ancillary thereto, he said that Vogel directed him to obtain $9,000 from Eisdorfer which was to be used to pay the $4,500 in fines, reimburse Doral for corporate money which Vogel said Eisdorfer had taken for his personal use, and to pay respondent a $500 fee for his services. According to respondent, Vogel said Eisdorfer was "a little bit wacky" and told him to just humor Eisdorfer and "agree with anything he says" until the $9,000 was produced.

Respondent claims that Eisdorfer initiated the discussions concerning payoffs to public officials and that he, following Vogel's instructions, went along merely in an effort to get Eisdorfer to deliver the $9,000. Respondent insisted that he was unaware that Vogel and Eisdorfer were actually involved in an attempted bribery.

Unknown to respondent, on March 23, 1970 Eisdorfer had gone to the prosecutor's office and reported that he had been approached by Vogel and a friend and told that the restriction on occupancy could be lifted by payment of a bribe of $9,000 to certain public officials. Eisdorfer agreed to cooperate with the prosecutor to ascertain if in fact a bribe was going to be paid, and was provided with a tape recorder and instructed in its use.

Recordings were made of telephone conversations Eisdorfer had with both respondent and Vogel, and a personal conversation between Eisdorfer and respondent in the latter's office on April 7, 1970. During this conversation respondent concededly stated that the $9,000 Eisdorfer was to deliver had to be in cash, and was to be used to bribe public officials.

On April 17, 1970, respondent was summoned to the prosecutor's office and, after hearing the recording of his April 7th conversation with Eisdorfer, gave a statement in which he admitted knowing that a bribe was going to be paid to certain persons through Vogel. A tape recording was made of this statement.*fn1

The Union County Ethics Committee,*fn2 after considering these recordings and hearing testimony from several witnesses, including respondent and Vogel (Eisdorfer had died

in a fire about two years earlier), concluded that respondent's and Vogel's testimony that respondent had no knowledge of the bribery conspiracy was not worthy of credibility.

The Committee found:

A. Respondent represented to Eisdorfer that he could and would bribe public officials with the funds he sought from Eisdorfer.

B. Respondent attempted to obtain money from Eisdorfer which respondent represented to Eisdorfer was to be ...


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