NJ mayor pleads guilty to corruption

May 9, 2008 4:42:59 PM PDT
Passaic City Mayor Samuel Rivera pleaded guilty to a federal corruption charge this morning and could face as much as two years in prison.The 61-year-old Rivera pleaded guilty to one count of extortion after being accused of accepting $5,000 in cash from an insurance brokerage firm in exchange for his help getting contracts.

He faces 18 to 24 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

"By his own conduct, Mr. Rivera added himself to the growing roster of corrupt public officials in New Jersey," said Christopher Christie. "The citizens of Passaic deserved better."

His resignation as mayor of Passaic was effective at 5 p.m. today.

He spent most of the day yesterday saying goodbye to staff memembers.

Rivera said little at the plea hearing this morning in federal court in Trenton.

"We made a careful evaluation of the evidence and the climate for a jury trial and the government made a fair proposal to resolve the case," attorney Henry Klingeman said. "He struggled. That in no way excuses his conduct. He's very sorry and remorseful, Klingeman said, explaining that Rivera took the money because he has a large family and needed cash.

"This was clearly a crime of opportunity. The informant thrust a wad of cash in his hand and he took it. And he should have said no."

In determining the actual sentence, Judge Wolfson will consult the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges that take into account the severity and characteristics of the offense, the defendant's criminal history, if any, and other factors, including acceptance of responsibility. The judge has wide discretion and is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.

Parole has been abolished in the federal system. Defendants who are given custodial terms must serve nearly all of that time.