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State v. Smollok

Decided: February 22, 1977.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ALEX SMOLLOK, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



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

Carton

Following a jury trial defendant was convicted on an indictment charging him with bribery in nine separate counts. A charge of misconduct in office was dismissed by the trial judge prior to submission of the case to the jury, on the ground that this charge merged into the individual bribery charges.

Defendant appeals on the ground that the judge abused discretion in admitting into evidence various cash deposits made by him in the period during which the various alleged bribe episodes took place.

The State's proofs showed that defendant Smollok served as board secretary and business manager of the Passaic

County Vocational and Technical School from 1968 to 1973. The State's main witness was a Joseph Carrara, who was, during this five-year period, the president of Caljo Contractors Supply Corporation, and who testified pursuant to an order granting him use immunity.

Carrara related that during a series of meetings in 1968 he and Smollok arranged a kickback scheme in which Smollok would obtain "commission" payments worth approximately 5% of all contracts awarded by the Passaic County Vocational School. Carrara and Smollok began the kickback system in 1968 with the retention of a civil engineer, a Mr. Odell, to supervise the construction of the vocational school building. Carrara obtained the services of Odell for the school project and required Odell to pay him a commission equalling 10% of the value of Odell's monthly bills to the school. During a one-year period Odell paid a total of $18,000 to Carrara, in both cash and check form, and Carrara in turn paid half, or about $9,000, to defendant. According to Carrara, this scheme, with variations, was followed with numerous contractors and suppliers of the school system from 1968 until Caljo ceased doing business with the school in late 1972 or early 1973.

The State also produced a number of witnesses who had represented suppliers and who testified in detail concerning their dealings with Carrara, essentially substantiating Carrara's description of the so-called "commission" system. In general, although the details of their descriptions varied somewhat, the transactions were all either initially solicited by Carrara or were eventually referred to him by defendant after the suppliers made inquiries to defendant about selling their products to the school.

Over defendant's objection the State introduced testimony of a bank official who testified from bank records that defendant and his wife had opened a personal checking account with the bank in June 1970 and had deposited various large sums in the account between May 26, 1972 and January 11,

1973. These consisted of the following: May 26, 1972 -- $2,027.15, of which $2,000 was cash; May 30, 1972 -- $3,074.55, of which $2,500 was cash; July 31, 1972 -- $5,000 in cash; January 3, 1973 -- $4,000 in cash, and January 11, 1973 -- $12,000, of which $5,000 was cash.

On defendant's case he denied any involvement in the alleged bribes. He also introduced the testimony of the representatives of a variety of suppliers to the school to the effect that they had never made kickbacks. They also denied that defendant ever asked for such payment. In addition, defendant introduced testimony as to the school's office and business procedures. A number of character witnesses testified to defendant's excellent reputation.

Defendant's explanation of the cash deposits introduced by the State was that they reflected legitimate income from his private business, the Smollok Electric Company, repayment of debts owed to him by friends, inheritance monies from his cousin's and mother-in-law's estates, transfers of monies from his various savings accounts, and monies that he ...


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