Hoboken politico Frank Raia was sentenced to 3 months in prison, along with a $50,000 fine, after being convicted of vote-by-mail fraud in connection to the 2013 municipal elections back in June.
By Corey McDonald/Hudson County View
The sentence comes about five months after Raia was first found guilty of conspiracy to violate the federal Travel Act for using the mail for voter bribery. He faced a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The sentencing was originally scheduled for Oct. 3, but had been delayed a handful of times.
“This past year has been by far the worst of my life,” Raia said in a Newark courtroom Monday morning before he was sentenced.
“As I stand before you … I hope that you can see that I am asking for leniency, not as a past politician … but as a loving father and family member.”
Raia, 68, was first indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2018 for overseeing a scheme to pay residents $50 for their votes.
Additionally, he will not have to report for his sentence until after the holidays , March 1st, and he will be subject to one year of supervised release after his sentence is served.
Members of Raia’s inner circle, such as Matt Calicchio, Michael Holmes, and Freddy Frasier, were the government’s key witnesses at trial, all indicating that Raia had been operating the scheme in the 2013 municipal elections.
Another member of his inner circle, Dio Braxton, was also supposed to be sentenced today, but that was adjourned. No new date has been set for his sentencing.
At the time, Raia was a council-at-large candidate and he was also pushing a ballot referendum that would’ve weakened the city’s rent control laws if approved. Neither effort was successful.
Raia’s defense attorney, Alan Zegas, initially asked the judge for leniency due to Raia’s declining health, before mentioning that he had also submitted some 140 letters to the court.
U.S. District Judge William Martini attributed his ruling to the large number of letters sent to the court on Raia’s behalf – the substance of which he at one point called “very extraordinary.”
“I have never seen a submission like this” in my career, he said. The letters “reflect a lifetime of giving and selflessness … You can’t read these letters and not be touched.”
Many family members and friends of Raia were in the Newark courtroom during his sentencing – some of whom addressed the court.
Frank Leanza, an attorney and Raia’s onetime business partner, said that “he has a big heart and cares about everyone.”
Others described instances of Raia going out of his way to help them and others in Hoboken. The judge later read from a letter that described how he adopted two children to give them a home.
“If not for his entire life history, [the] sentence would be much more significant,” Martini said.
“But because it does have to do with the electoral process and the integrity of that process … some form of punishment is still necessary – if for no other reason to deter others who think they can tamper with the electoral process.”
Martini added: “The best I can glean … I think that ambition got him into the situation in which he is now before this court. That’s the only way I can understand how he got into this situation.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated with new information.
Chief News Correspondent John Heinis contributed to this report.
Follow Corey McDonald on Twitter @cwmcdonald_