A defiant but apologetic former Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell was sentenced in federal district court today to 30 months in prison, following his July 2011 conviction on one count of corruption.
U.S. District Judge Jose Linares, who oversaw Elwell’s trial, imposed the sentence this afternoon in Newark which was below recommended guidelines as the judge said he gave the former mayor credit for his service in Vietnam.
Elwell apologized to his family and the town of Secaucus for the “embarrassment” that came along with his arrest, but he remained defiant that he is the victim of an overzealous government prosecution.
He told the court: “When I was drafted into the United States Army, we were informed that we belonged to the United States government, they could do whatever they wanted with us, and we could expect to give our lives for the government. To be set up by the same government – and I feel I was set up — is the most discouraging thing that has ever happened to me in my life.”
Elwell faced a maximum statutory penalty of ten years in prison and a fine up to $250,000, although guidelines set the recommended sentence in the 33 to 41-month range.
A jury convicted Elwell on one of three corruption charges last summer, finding he took $10,000 from an undercover federal informant.
“Corrupt public officials betray and unfairly tarnish all of us who live and work in this state,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said after the sentencing Thursday. “Despite his obligations to the people of Secaucus as their mayor, Dennis Elwell took $10,000 in cash to play favorites. It is tragic when someone who clearly understands the rewards and responsibilities of public service trades his principles for private gain.”
Elwell lost a bid for an acquittal and new trial following the conviction last year.
The sentencing is the latest chapter of a drama that began on the morning of July 23, 2009, when federal, state and local officials made national news for executing a statewide round-up of public officials. Elwell’s attorney has vowed to appeal the conviction and sentence.
Terrence McDonald, an NJ.com reporter, first reported the verdict on Twitter this afternoon.