The councilman had demanded the bribes to ensure the township purchased a local business owner’s property.
Telling the one-time Bloomfield councilman his actions “created severe harm to public trust in elected officials,” a Superior Court judge on Thursday handed Elias Chalet five years in state prison for bribery, capping a saga that began almost three years ago when state detectives raided Chalet’s real estate office.
Chalet, flanked by defense attorney Peter Till, apologized to the township, and to his family as he told Judge Martin G. Cronin: “I’ve led them through hell the last three years of my life.”
As sheriff’s officers placed handcuffs around Chalet’s dress shirt-clad wrists, Cronin rejected a request by Till to delay Chalet’s surrender to authorities.
Till had asked for a 10- to 14-day delay to allow him time to meet with the Department of Corrections regarding Chalet’s health issues, but Croning said there was a public interest in the Chalet’s “prompt commencement of sentence.”
Chalet’s sentencing had been rescheduled numerous times, coming more than a year after he accepted a plea bargain that saw him plead guilty to second-degree bribery and forfeit his council seat.
The state Attorney General’s Office said Chalet had demanded $15,000 from a local business owner to ensure the township purchased the man’s property.
Unbeknownst to Chalet, the business owner went directly to the authorities, who outfitted the man with recording devices to capture his delivery of the payments, according to state authorities.
When law enforcement descended on Chalet’s office after the final payment was made in November 2015, the councilman locked himself in the bathroom and flushed the illicit cash down the toilet, prosecutors said.
Prior to his May 9, 2017, guilty plea, Chalet had rejected similar offers from the state’s prosecutors and appeared ready to take his case to trial.
Thomas Moriarty may be reached …read more
Source:: New Jersey Real -Time News