A former volunteer for Frank Raia’s 2013 Hoboken council and referendum campaigns testified this morning that workers routinely got paid for their votes, regardless if they performed campaign work or not.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“He said make sure you bring the ballots back to the club. They wanted every ballot open to see how they voted,” Michael Holmes said on the stand during direct questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal.
Holmes, arguably the most colorful witness in the case to date, said that he refused to bring open ballots back to Raia’s social club at 520 Jefferson St. because he knew it was illegal.
However, he still told voters they would receive a $50 check from either the Let the People Decide super PAC or the Bluewater Operations consulting company in exchange for their votes, even though he knew that was illegal, too.
Therefore, why would he do such a thing?
“That’s what Frank wanted,” he exclaimed, later rationalizing that “we were loyal to Frank.”
In at least a dozen instances, Holmes, who said he has been volunteering on political campaigns since 1977 when he was 16 years old, repeated the same line when asked if residents actually had to work in order to be paid.
“If anybody works they will get paid and if they vote they will get paid,” he said stoically.
Alan Zegas, Raia’s criminal defense attorney, tried to trip up Holmes, who testified as part of a cooperation agreement, but to no avail.
“I told the voters if they worked they would be paid and if they didn’t work they would be paid: let’s cut to the chase here my friend,” he said before U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martini halted the tense exchange.
Holmesy further testified that his loyalty to Raia netted him significant financial benefits, such as attending five Super Bowl, various dinners, concerts, payment for his late wife’s funeral, a $3,000 loan and a vacation to the Bahamas.
He also testified that he had known Matt Calicchio, a political operative who revealed yesterday he worked for 5th Ward council candidate Eduardo Gonzalez in 2015, for over 10 years.
Zegas found it convenient that Holmes and Calicchio happened to run into each other at Piccolos Cheesesteaks last night, but Holmes was again quick to push back.
“Let me tell you something my friend: I got dropped off at Piccolos and I didn’t talk to him at all,” also noting that he frequented the establishment seven days a week.
When asked if he considered himself a captain, Holmes said he didn’t and it wasn’t a term he was familiar with during the campaign since he routinely went by another name.
“I wasn’t known as anything, I was called ‘Big Holmesy.’ Just ‘Big Holmesy.'”
The government has said that more voters, along with one more “captain,” will testify after the lunch break.