Jurors in Bencivengo trial enter fourth hour of deliberations

TRENTON – Jurors have spent about four hours behind closed doors Tuesday deliberating in the criminal bribery case against Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo.

They entered the jury room at about 9:30 a.m. and are tasked with deciding if federal prosecutors proved their case against the embattled mayor, who they accuse of accepting $12,400 in bribes from a former friend turned FBI informant who hoped to retain a lucrative insurance contract with the township.

The government argues the cash-strapped mayor accepted the bribes in exchange for using his official influence as mayor to help the former insurance broker prevent her contract with the township’s school board from going out to bid. Bencivengo’s defense has maintained that the mayor’s former friend threw Bencivengo under the bus after she was approached by FBI agents.

Bencivengo’s trial concluded Monday evening and jurors recessed before beginning deliberations.

The still-sitting mayor was charged with five criminal counts, including extortion and money laundering.

"He’s obviously working very, very hard at it. I mean he’s traveling all over the country as chairman of the [Republican Governors Association] and I think at this point he has as good a chance or better than anybody else. His name is household word all across the country, and I think he would make a great president."
—former U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton (R-3), on Gov. Chris Christie