Frank Raia, a Hoboken politico who was convicted of vote-by-mail fraud in connection to the 2013 municipal elections, is moving forward with an effort to have a new trial, saying the key testimony of three cooperating witnesses couldn’t be trusted in a new court filing.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“In order to prove its case, the Government presented testimony from three of the purported confidants, Matthew Calicchio, Michael Holmes, and Freddie Frazier,” attorneys Alan Zegas and Joshua Nahum wrote in an August 9th brief to U.S. District Judge William J. Martini.
“Additionally, the government presented testimony from a handful of the voters who had allegedly been paid for their votes. However, these witnesses were unreliable, contradictory, and often testifying pursuant to cooperation agreements with the government to avoid prosecution or severe sentences.”
The duo representing Raia in this matter continues that Calicchio pleaded guilty to charges related to buying votes in Hoboken in both 2013 and 2015, while “Holmes and Frazier were given non-prosecution agreements in exchange for their testimony.”
The three witnesses, routinely referred to by the government as “captains” on multiple campaign for Raia, testified that, through campaign workers, Raia would offer low-income voters $50 in exchange for their mail-in votes for his council slate and a ballot question he supported that sought to loosen the city’s rent control laws.
They also said under oath that Raia used Bluewater Operations as an intermediary to avoid having to file certain paperwork with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
As only HCV reported, Zegas submitted a motion for a new trial on July 9th, primarily arguing that “the jury’s guilty verdict was against the weight of the evidence and the rulings of the court at trial, which were adverse to defendant, compromised the right of defendant to due process and a fair trial.”
Those points are reiterated in the latest federal court filing in this case, also making the argument that the testimony of Calicchio, Holmes and Frazier was inconsistent to statements they had made in either interviews with the FBI and/or in front of a grand jury.
The brief contends that none of the three main government witnesses began testifying against Raia until they were offered some form of a cooperation agreement.
“Ultimately, the Government failed to present credible evidence to substantiate the existence of any conspiracy. Rather, the Government argued through innuendo that Mr. Raia’s actions make him appear guilty, when in fact none of those actions were improper or unusual,” the brief also says.
Raia himself testified at the tail end of the trial, exclaiming that he had never bought a vote in his life.
“The Government goes beyond arguing the evidence to arguing probability. There is no evidence in the record that all of the people who were paid and received mail-in ballots were paid to vote,” Zegas and Nahum wrote in the court filing.
“Rather, the Government sough to inflame the passions of the jury by making the alleged scheme seem much larger than the government had introduced evidence to prove.”
On June 19th, an FBI agent who had performed data analysis on the case testified that 95 percent of the people paid by Raia-linked Hoboken campaigns (his council slate and the Let the People Decide super PAC) had received vote-by-mail ballots.
“Because the verdict was against the weight of the evidence, and because there is a substantial potential that the jury was inflamed by improper arguments in the Government’s closing arguments, the verdict must be vacated and the matter remanded for a new trial.”
For the time being, Raia is scheduled to be sentenced by Martini on October 3rd at 10 a.m., where he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.