This will hold the updates on the Bencivengo trial throughout the testimony. This will be updated periodically through breaks in the case.
The trial of Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo will at least partially rest on how much the jury believes the testimony of Maria Louise Ljuba.
In trial today, Ljuba admitted to bribing, getting government jobs for or contributing to the campaigns of more than half a dozen people.
So far through the lunch break, the prosecution and defense have presented their opening arguments and the prosecution has questioned Ljuba.
After the lunch break the prosecution will present tapes of Bencivengo, Rob Warney and others that Ljuba made after cooperating with the FBI
Ljuba started cooperating with the FBI in 2011 after they brought her in for questioning over criminal charges against a former employer.
In her testimony we saw a network that Ljuba established in the local Republican party through various means including bribes and contributions.
Ljuba also said she gave $12,000 to $14,000 in 2011 to three School Board members: Patty Del Giudice, Joe Malagrino and Stephanie Pratico.
This has not been touched on in testimony yet, but in his opening statement, AUSA Dustin Chao said Benci threatened to "sic" Vinnie Cappodano on the Board members. During the break in the testimony, Cappodano said he had no conversations with the mayor about that.
Not really a surprise here, but Mayor John Bencivengo declined comment on the morning's testimony.
Also, Ballarotto has not gotten the chance to cross examine Ljuba yet, but gave a preview of what's to come in his opening argument.
It looks like he'll focus on her motivations and honesty throughout the investigation, especially in her cooperation with the FBI.
Ballarotto, in his opening argument, began to lay out his defense; Bencivengo took a loan from a friend, which is now being construed.
Ljuba also described her relationship with Robbinsville Business Administrator Joy Tozzi, a former Hamilton Township School Board member
Ljuba said she bribed Tozzi, took her on vacations, shopping trips and also used her to make straw contributions to political campaigns.
Also, each year, Ljuba made as much as $600,000 off of commissions from her dealings with Hamilton School District alone.
Heading back to the courtroom now, but I will post more updates. Feel free to ask questions or try to get clarification.
Back in the courtroom, will be updating further after another break.
George Fisher, longtime critic and former candidate for the school board, said he felt justified in his criticism of Patty Del Giudice.
Vinnie Cappodano, former town council member said he hoped Board President Patty Del Giudice would step down after the morning testimony.
Another break in testimony: Gov't case includes taped conversations, video recordings, text message transcripts and EZ Pass records.
In addition, the FBI funded $7,400 in bribes and a trip to Atlantic City for Ljuba, Bencivengo and others. Not sure about the price for AC.
In a recorded Feb. 2012 meeting, Ljuba and Bencivengo discussed an OPRA request filed with the school district making her commissions public
In that February meeting, Bencivengo expressed hatred for someone Ljuba ID'ed as Steve Cook, director of the Arc of Mercer.
To be exact, Bencivengo said "What a jerkoff he is, he is such a f***ing jerkoff" about the unnamed man in the tape.
And Cook, at the Arc of Mercer, heads up programs that provide employment and housing for hundreds of developmentally disabled people.
Want to make sure it's clear: the $11,000 from Ljuba in 2011 went to the three board members' campaigns and not them personally.
Also, Ljuba said she gave, through Joy Tozzi, about $11,000 for the council campaign of Tom Goodwin, Dennis Pone and Dave Kenny in 2004-5
The government has two more witnesses to call in the case: Rob Warney and an unnamed FBI special agent. They said they'll rest after that.
The defense may call retired special agent William Monks,who had the initial meeting with Ljuba in June last year.
Working on my story now, but I'll have odds and ends about the trial -- and a video wrap-up -- at hamiltoninfocus.blogspot.com
What do you think of the first day of the John Bencivengo federal corruption trial? Let me know here or at hamiltoninfocus.blogspot.com
Today there will be the end of Marliese Ljuba's cross-examination, admitted middleman Rob Warney and an unnamed FBI agent will also testify.
The prosecution intends to rest its case today, after the testimony of two more witnesses.
Judge is now asking about media coverage of the Bencivengo case. Cautions jury not to read about the trial until it is over.
Marliese Ljuba volunteered in testimony that she did not record all of her conversations with Bencivengo while cooperating with the FBI.
Also during testimony yesterday, they said Ljuba tipped off Hamilton School District Business Administrator Joe Tramontana.
Apparently, she told Tramontana she was cooperating with the FBI and was recording conversations
Ljuba said she turned off the recorder during one event, that she did not say for sure it was with Bencivengo.
LJuba said she had a recorder to tape phone calls for up to a week at a time.
There were also times she had the recorder and tried to make recordings, but there was no tape on the machine when she turned it over to FBI