Bergen County Superior Court Judge Christopher Kazlau took about 30 minutes this morning to read the jury charge in the commercial bribery case of West New York Mayor Felix Roque.
“NJSA2c:21-10a3 reads, in pertinent part, as follows: a) a person is guilty of commercial bribery if he solicits, accepts or agrees to accept any benefit as consideration for knowingly violating, or agreeing to violate the duty of fidelity to which he is subject as a physician,” Kazlau told the 14-person jury (two are alternates).
Back in June 2015, Roque, a pain management specialist, was indicted by the state attorney general’s office for allegedly referring patients to a specific medical imaging company in Hackensack as part of a $250,000 kickback scheme that existed between 2007 and 2012.
Roque pleaded not guilty to the charge shortly thereafter and eventually took the stand at the tail end of a six-day court case that has spanned over three weeks, testifying he had only met with Rehan Zuberi two or three times in his life and had never taken any bribes.
“In order for you to find Felix Roque guilty of the crime of commercial bribery, the state must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt,” Kazlau continued.
“1. That Felix Roque solicited, accepted or agreed to accept a benefit. 2. That Felix Roque did so in consideration for knowingly violating, or agreeing to violate, the duty of fidelity and 3. That Felix Roque owed the duty of fidelity because he is a physician.”
Kazlau further stated a person that owes a duty of fidelity or loyalty “may not engage in self dealing or otherwise use his or her position for further personal interests, rather than those of the patients.”
During the trial, lead case investigator Anthony Correll testified that Roque had accepted approximately $245,500 in bribes, which correlated with nearly $150,000 being deposited in Roque’s bank account during a 24-month time frame.
While on the stand, Roque later attributed the deposits to collecting cash rent from tenants without checking accounts, as well as treating patients without medical insurance – who therefore paid their co-pay amounts in cash.
Roque also said that he couldn’t have taken bribes for six months in 2008 since he was on active duty for the U.S. Army in Texas, but the state debunked such a theory since Roque’s leave ended early and he returned to New Jersey on a few occasions.
The court randomly selected Jurors 1 and 3 as alternates, meaning that the deliberating jury consists of 10 women and two men.
The jury entered deliberations at approximately 10:20 a.m. this morning.