The Star-Ledger by Sue Epstein - March 15, 2011
MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NJ — Former Middlesex County Sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo pleaded not guilty this afternoon in Freehold to charges of bribery and a pattern of official misconduct. Spicuzzo, who served as chairman of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization until his arrest earlier this month, was helped into Superior Court Judge Anthony Mellaci's courtroom by his wife, Mary Ann, and his attorney, Steven Altman. The state charges Spicuzzo collected at least $50,000 in bribes for jobs and promotions in 2007 and 2008. Authorities say Spicuzzo collected the bribes as payment for hiring new recruits to be sheriff's investigators. A second man, Paul Lucarelli, a sheriff's officer who served as president of the local PBA chapter representing the sheriff's officers, was arrested Monday and charged with delivering the illegal cash to Spicuzzo. Former Middlesex County Sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo charged with taking bribes in return for jobs Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced that former Middlesex County Sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo was arrested on charges that he demanded bribes of up to $25,000 from those seeking employment or promotions in the sheriff's office. It is alleged that the bribes occurred on two or more occasions from 2007 to 2008. Deputy Attorney General Vincent Militello asked Mellaci to set bail for Spicuzzo at $50,000. Spicuzzo was released on his own recognizance after he surrendered on the charges last week. But, Mellaci refused to increase the bail, saying, "there is no evidence he's a flight risk." Spicuzzo served as sheriff for 30 years, retiring on Dec. 31. He was chairman of the county Democrats for 16 years. The former sheriff declined to comment after the hearing, which lasted only a few minutes. Altman and his partner, Joseph Benedict, also declined to comment. "The Attorney General's Office said it would make some evidence available for us to take a look at in the coming weeks," Benedict said. "We may have something to say after that."