Prosecutor Erred, Says Ex-Parsippany Mayor
The Record, Associated Press
October 14, 1995
A prosecutor who ridiculed the suggestion that she would have witnesses lie to convict the former Parsippany-Troy Hills mayor of corruption went too far, an attorney told a federal appeals court Friday.
Prosecutors countered that Assistant U.S. Attorney Alicia Olivera Valle's comments were "feisty," but a proper response to defense suggestions that lawyers made up evidence to convict Frank Priore.
In her rebuttal argument in March 1994, Olivera Valle told a federal jury: "He's telling you the witnesses lied. The government knew about it. The government doesn't care about the truth . . . Well, that's crap. Had that been done, that's suborning perjury, another five years. I'm in for 15 now.
"Who the hell . . . is Frank Priore to think that I'm going to jail for 15 years, along with my colleagues, to get him?"
In oral arguments Friday before three judges of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Priore attorney Patrick Mullin said Valle's comments were improper and shifted the burden of proof in the case to the defendant.
"The prosecution went over the line and basically launched a counterattack," Mullin said.
The three-judge panel took the case under advisement, but Circuit Judge Timothy K. Lewis said he was "very troubled" by the prosecutor's remarks.
"Doesn't the government owe a greater obligation to be restrained?" Lewis asked later in the hearing.
Priore, mayor for 12 years, was convicted in March 1994 of 20 counts of mail fraud, bribery, extortion, and obstruction of justice. He is serving a five-year sentence in a Schuylkill County, Pa., prison.
The ex-mayor, who coined the slogan "Pride of Parsippany," was accused in December 1992 of receiving $5,100 in improper payments from the township dental plan to pay for himself, his daughter, and his girlfriend.