Charges against NJ corruption defendant dismissed

(FILE) Former New Jersey assemblyman Louis Manzo is walked Thursday, July 23, 2009, in Newark, N.J., to a waiting bus outside FBI offices after being arrested. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

February 18, 2012 11:21:49 AM PST
A federal judge has dismissed all charges against a defendant in New Jersey's largest corruption case.

It was the second major legal victory in the case for former state Assemblyman Louis Manzo, who had run unsuccessfully for Jersey City mayor when he was arrested in July 2009.

He was among 44 people charged in a sweeping federal investigation into international money laundering and political corruption.

Manzo initially faced counts of extortion conspiracy, but those charges were dismissed after a federal appeals court ruled Manzo had been improperly charged under rules meant for public officials.

Federal prosecutors then brought new charges against him, including two counts of violating the federal Travel Act by meeting in Staten Island with an undercover informant who posed as a corrupt developer and one count of not reporting federal offenses committed by others in the alleged scheme.

He also was charged with mail fraud.

Manzo's attorney, John Lynch, had argued that the new charges against Manzo were nothing more than retaliation for his earlier legal victory.

Lynch also claimed the statutes the government was using had been misapplied and said the entire prosecution was part of a conspiracy that helped Chris Christie win the governor's seat, claims the administration has called "deluded."

In a 60-page decision issued late Friday, U.S. District Judge Jose Linares granted Manzo's motion to dismiss all counts.

"The truth is the truth," Manzo told The Jersey Journal shortly after learning of the ruling from his lawyer. At the time, he was walking on the boardwalk in Belmar, a Jersey Shore community where he has been living with his mother.

"I then went to church, thanked God, and now I'm just enjoying (the legal victory). It was a hard-fought battle. Hopefully, I can get my life back," said Manzo, who said he is working on a book about Christie, his election as governor and the corruption probe.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said prosecutors accept the judge's ruling.

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