Former Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison late Thursday morning following his guilty plea on federal corruption charges.
Cammarano, 33, pled guilty in April to receiving $25,000 in bribes from federal informant Solomon Dwek as part of the government's Operation Bid Rig. He admitted to accepting $15,000 during his 2009 mayoral campaign while serving as a city councilman and another $10,000 following his July 1, 2009, inauguration as mayor. Cammarano, arrested three weeks after taking the mayoralty, resigned on July 31, 2009.
The sentence came after Cammarano's attorney, Joseph Hayden, pleaded with U.S. District Judge Jose Linares to give the former mayor a lesser sentence than the two years in the federal sentencing guidelines.
"I think he has already lived his sentence," Hayden said, noting that since his arrest Cammarano has seen his wife leave him, been seperated from his young daughter, lost his law license and has been banned from ever holding public office again.
Hayden said during the sentencing that Cammarano did not personnally profit from the bribes, noting that all of the money was given to his 2009 mayoral campaign for campaign-related expenses. He said that Linares should use that as a factor in weighing the sentence. He also asked the judge to weigh Cammarano's period as a city councilman, which he said was free of scandal and corruption.
"How much punishment need there be? When is enough enough?" said Hayden, who said that Cammarano's sentencing was the hardest he has participated in as an attorney.
Cammarano had been caught on FBI tapes saying the brides would get Dwek preferential treatment in land use decisions by his administration. During his guilty plea, Cammarano admitted to bribery and extortion.
During a statement to the court, Cammarano said he has nobody to blame but himself for the crime he committed and he regretted standing before the court to receive the sentence.
"Without any doubt, I'll spend the rest of my days, whatever comes, doing the best to make amends for the conduct in this case," Cammarano said.
Linares ordered Cammarano to report to a federal prison on Sept. 20 to begin serving his sentence. Hayden requested that the former mayor serve his sentence at the federal prison camp in Lewisburg, Penn. Prison assignments are typically made by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, weighing a number of factors.
Linares said he considered a number of factors in deciding on the two-year sentence, including the numerous character letters he received from a number of individuals including Cammarano's therapist, sister and close friends. He said it was sad to see someone with a promising legal and political career come before the court to be sentenced.
The sentencing was attended by six members of the Hoboken public.
Cammarano's sentencing brings to an end what had been considered one of the most promising political careers in New Jersey. First elected councilman-at-large in 2005, Cammarano was considered a rising star and groomed to be mayor in 2009. Local legend—and Cammarano-generated lore—has it that the former mayor was literally plucked off the street in 2004 by former Mayor David Roberts and former Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons when he was handing out campaign literature for then-presidential candidate John Kerry.
Delaying his honeymoon to continue in the 2005 runoff, Cammarano made his mark early, focusing on land use and development matters in Hoboken, an area which would foreshadow the end of his political career. Cammarano served as the campaign manager for establishment Council candidates in 2007, setting him up on his ultimate collision course with Beth Mason and Dawn Zimmer in the 2009 mayoral election.
An election attorney by profession, Cammarano was considered one of the leading practicioners in the state as the protege of Democratic election law powerhouse Angelo Genova. Cammarano served as the chief election attorney in U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez' successful 2006 campaign and was the New Jersey election attorney for Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.
During his tenure on the Council, Cammarano generated attention in Democratic circles both state and nationwide as a rising star. He was one of the founders of Democrats 2000, a statewide group of rising Democratic party activists. Cammarano also raised money from young professionals for a variety of candidates around New Jersey, along with Clinton.
Cammarano was seen as a bridge between new and old Hoboken, being able to use his status as a young professional to reach new Hoboken but able to also interact with the born-and-raised population. He was quick to tout that his now-estranged wife, Marita Erbeck Cammarano, was born in the city and that her grandfather was a former city comptroller.
Cammarano ended up in a tough mayoral campaign against Zimmer and Mason in 2009, facing charges that he was not a reformer and would continue the policies of the Roberts Administration. He charged that Zimmer and Mason placed the city under state fiscal control with their votes to not approve the 2008 city budget. Just before the first-round election—on the day he was supposed to release his campaign platform—Cammarano faced allegations that he fathered a child out of wedlock as a teenager and was a deadbeat father. The former mayor, who has a three-year-old daughter with his estranged wife, denied the allegations.
Cammarano faced a tougher campaign in the runoff against Zimmer, during which time he accepted the first of the payments from Dwek through intermediaries. He was caught on FBI recordings saying he needed the funds for the runoff against Zimmer.
Narrowly elected in the runoff, Cammarano took office facing a hostile City Council controlled by Zimmer and her allies. Cammarano was considered a future gubernatorial or congressional candidate and was quickly embraced by the state's Democratic establishment within days of taking office. Former Gov. Jon Corzine and Newark Mayor Cory Booker appeared with Cammarano in the early days of his administration.
The city's youngest mayor, Cammarano barely had time to make a mark before his arrest, which occurred a day after his 32nd birthday. Cammarano was the highest-profile person caught up in the arrests, the largest single-day series of arrests on corruption charges in state history. His arrest caused crowds to picket his northern Hoboken townhouse demanding his resignation and shocked politicians from around the state.
"The sheer stupidity of these people is mind boggling," said former Westfield Mayor Tom Jardim at the time, noting he casually knew Cammarano.
Resigning after a month and becoming the city's shortest-serving mayor, Cammarano quickly became a public pariah, shunned by many who had been close to him during his time in politics. He has spent the time since his resignation working on his legal case and volunteering with local charities.
During remarks outside the courthouse following the sentencing, Hayden repeated comments he made after the April plea. He said Cammarano plans to serve his sentence and then will set out to become a productive member of society.
Cammarano did not have any comment as he left the courthouse in Newark shortly after noon on Thursday.
Editor's Note: Stay tuned to Patch for more details as the story develops.