Jury selection is set to begin Wednesday in Freehold for the trial of former county Sheriff Joseph C. Spicuzzo on charges he accepted bribes in exchange for jobs and promotions in the Middlesex County Sheriff's Department.
The trial will take place in Monmouth County based on Spicuzzo's 30-year history as Middlesex County Sheriff.
Spicuzzo, 65, of Helmetta, was charged by complaint in March, 2011 with second-degree charges for a pattern of official misconduct and bribery.
He is facing charges of one count for conspiracy, three counts of official misconduct, one count for a pattern of official misconduct, and six counts of bribery. Spicuzzo is also facing charges of second-degree pattern of official misconduct.
Indictments were also handed down against Darrin P. DiBiasi, 43, of Monmouth Junction, and Paul A. Lucarelli, 46, of South River, a suspended Middlesex County sheriff’s officer.
The three men allegedly participated in a scheme in which Spicuzzo collected approximately $112,000 in bribes from individuals seeking positions or promotions in the sheriff’s office, according to the state Attorney General's office.
DiBiasi is charged with one count of conspiracy, three counts of official misconduct, and one count of bribery. Lucarelli is facing charges of one count of conspiracy, three counts of official misconduct, and one count of bribery.
According to the Attorney General's office, on two or more occasions in 2007 and 2008, Spicuzzo allegedly demanded that different individuals pay him bribes in return for appointments as new sheriff’s investigators or for promoting them within the sheriff’s office.
Sheriff’s officers are hired through the civil service system, while sheriff’s investigators are appointed directly by the sheriff.
Spicuzzo allegedly solicited and accepted individual bribes of up to $25,000 from new hires for investigator positions, and he took bribes totaling at least $50,000, according to the Attorney General's office.
According to the indictment, between March 1996 and November 2008, while serving as county sheriff, Spicuzzo demanded that eight different individuals pay bribes in return for appointments as new sheriff’s investigators or to be promoted within the sheriff’s office.
Young applicants to the sheriff's office who were trying to obtain law enforcement positions as investigators were forced to use "all sources of funding available to them to pay the alleged bribes," the Attorney General's office said.
DiBiasi allegedly paid a $5,000 bribe prior to being hired in 1999. Spicuzzo also allegedly took two bribes from a sheriff’s officer for $7,000 and $5,000 in exchange for two promotions within the sheriff’s office between 2007 and 2008. The investigation revealed that each person who had paid a bribe was given the promised position, according to the Attorney General's office.
DiBiasi is accused of collecting three bribes from individuals who sought investigator positions. Dibiasi allegedly delivered two separate payments of approximately $12,500 and approximately $10,000 to Spicuzzo between 2002 and 2005,
Lucarelli is accused of collecting an approximately $25,000 bribe and delivering it to Spicuzzo in 2008 from an individual who sought an investigator position.
Lucarelli was arrested in March 2011, while DiBiasi was arrested in July 2011. All three were released without posting bail.
Under state law, second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of $150,000.
All three men pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Following Spicuzzo's arrest, he resigned as Middlesex County Democratic Party chairman after 16 years in the position. In addition, Spicuzzo also resigned as a commissioner on the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, a position he held since Dec. 2009.
All charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison, while certain charges against each defendant carry a mandatory minimum term of five years in prison without possibility of parole, according to the Attorney General's office.