By Eric Dixon
“We thought this happens in the Dominican Republic. We didn’t expect this to happen in the United States.”
Those words, spoken by a Newark federal judge this morning who cited property developers who were asked for a bribe, were behind his sentencing former Passaic mayor Alex Blanco to 27 months in federal prison for bribery.
The underlying crime was Blanco demanding a bribe as a condition to release over $200,000 in federal funds to some developers of low-income housing in the town. The developers eventually reported the request to the FBI. Blanco pleaded guilty in exchange for other charges being dropped.
The judge, William Martini, cited the need to deter other elected officials from similar acts, but also cited the hardship of a prison sentence on Blanco’s family as a reason for a “downward departure” from federal sentencing guidelines. The guidelines, while advisory, rely on a points system which takes into account both “aggravating” and “mitigating’ factors and are often cited by both sides to argue for lesser or greater sentences.
Parole has been abolished in the federal prison system. Federal inmates typically are required to serve about 85 percent of their sentence, meaning Blanco would likely serve nearly two years in a minimum security prison camp. Some of that sentence may also be served at a halfway house.