(Reuters) - Jury selection in the corruption trial of the mayor of New Jersey’s capital city and his brother begins on Monday, in a case U.S. prosecutors say is filled with secret meetings and code names.
Trenton Mayor Tony Mack, 47, who is still in office, and his brother, Ralphiel Mack, have denied charges related to a 2010 bribery scheme in which $119,000 was offered in exchange for Mayor Mack’s help in the development of an automated parking garage on city-owned land.
About $54,000 was actually paid, the indictment said, with the rest to be paid later.
It was not immediately known if the trial will include testimony from a co-conspirator who pleaded guilty in the scheme - restaurant owner Joseph Giorgianni, also known as “The Fat Man” and JoJo, the name of his steak house, according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Trenton.
Prosecutors contend that the Mack brothers and Giorgianni agreed to accept money from two persons, identified only as cooperating witnesses who, court documents indicated, were buyers of the land.
Mayor Mack has maintained his innocence and his lawyer has said he has no plans to step down despite a call to do so by Governor Chris Christie.
The mayor faces one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, one count of attempting the obstruction of justice by extortion, one count of accepting bribes and three counts of fraud. His brother faces one count of conspiracy to obstruct, one count of attempting obstruction, one count of accepting bribes and three counts of fraud.
According to the indictment, a scheme was hatched to keep Mayor Mack from being caught. Money was channeled through Giorgianni and Ralphiel Mack, the indictment charged.
“They often used coded and cryptic language, including using the term ‘Uncle Remus’ to refer to the corrupt payments,” the indictment charged.
Part of the effort to hide the scheme involved Giorgianni using the name “Mr. Baker” when sending text messages about the payments, prosecutors said.
Mayor Mack, not a tall man, was referred to as “the little guy” and “Napoleon.”
Prosecutors accuse the three of trying to conceal their activities by avoiding meetings in City Hall, which is near the federal courthouse, and instead gathering at Giorgianni’s residence, his steak house and restaurants in Atlantic City.
Reporting by Dave Warner; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson