Elwell was arrested on July 23, 2009 and faces three counts: conspiracy to commit extortion, attempted extortion, and acceptance of a corrupt payment.
The prosecution led by attorney Eric Kanefsky argued that the moment Elwell took $10,000 from Ronald Manzo, Elwell’s friend who handed him the cash after receiving it from Dwek, he was responsible for several crimes.
Elwell met with Manzo and Dwek on May 23rd at La Reggia restaurant in Secaucus. Elwell has admitted to holding on to the $10,000 cash for Manzo after meeting with Dwek. Elwell stated during his testimony that he told Manzo he could not accept the cash but agreed to hold onto it for him. Manzo said he was worried that Dwek wouldn’t partner with him if Elwell didn’t take the money.
The prosecution replayed videotapes to demonstrate that Elwell knew the money was a bribe, stating that he made promises throughout the meetings. Elwell has testified that he thought the $10,000 was a campaign contribution. The point that Elwell held on to the cash for 56 days was also raised as the prosecutor waved the $10,000 cash around in front of the jury, according to the Record of Hackensack.
Prosecuting Attorney Maureen Nakly pointed to Elwell’s years of experience. She described the mayor’s defense as full of excuses, failing to take responsibility while blaming others. She questioned why Elwell kept the money in a safe, countering the defense’s argument that Elwell was holding onto the money for Manzo.
In the defense’s closing arguments, Attorney Jeffrey Garrigan described Elwell as a victim of a scheme by Dwek, who Garrigan described as criminal looking to set Elwell up to so that the government would go lighter on his own sentencing for fraud.The defense also said Manzo was interested in getting paid by Dwek for Elwell’s cooperation. (Manzo pleaded guilty last month to his role in taking money.)
Garrigan also said Manzo is interested in protecting his brother Lou Manzo, who was also accused of accepting bribes from Dwek.
The defense also argued that Elwell did not accept a bribe because he made it evident in the videos that he could not do anything for Dwek, who wanted to build on land that Elwell did not have any authority over. The defense also pointed out that Elwell never spent the money, which was handed in as evidence.
The jury begins deliberations and will be reviewing the videotapes submitted as evidence.