I just finished reading Isaac Wright's brief in support of his motion currently pending before the New Jersey Supreme Court (App.Div. Docket No. A5434-90T4). As you may recall, Wright was convicted in 1991 of being a "drug kingpin" and sentenced by Judge Imbriani to life imprisonment with a 25 year parole disqualifier. The Appellate Division reversed the kingpin conviction on May 12, 1995. Former Somerset County Prosecutor Bissell appealed the Appellate Division's decision on June 5, 1995. Wright's current motion seeks to dismiss Bissell's appeal.
Important Note: Since Wright's conviction, Judge
Imbriani has been convicted for theft, and Prosecutor Bissell has been
named in a 33 count federal indictment. Both were removed from office.
Wright's brief, prepared by Public Defender Vito Sciancalepore dated June 15, 1995, claims that Wright "was selectively and vindictively singled out to be treated and prosecuted disparately" by Bissell. His research revealed that several other drug defendants were more involved in the drug trade than Wright, but weren't prosecuted as "drug kingpins." Significantly, in the examples he cites, the other defendants all agreed to forfeit large sums of cash as part of their plea deals. Although I haven't checked the court records to verify Sciancalepore's claims, his allegations are consistent with Bissell's known conduct.
It is also noteworthy that Wright, who was convicted of being a "kingpin," possessed only $96 in cash at the time of his arrest, and ultimately, the prosecutor could only locate about $600 to forfeit. It appears that Wright's lack of forfeitable cash played a role in the prosecutorial decision of whether the state should seek a life sentence.
Appended to this post is the pertinent text from Sciancalepore's brief. Note that names and figures are provided. If analysis reveals Sciancalepore to be correct, Bissell's abuse of the forfeiture statute and criminal justice system becomes more apparent.
==from the brief - page 12
Mario Restrepo and his organization used over $70,000.00
in cash, a house, land and a car to purchase a substantial number of kilos
of Cocaine. After making the deal, he and members of his organization was
arrested by SCPO. Again, no one was charged as a kingpin. He voluntarily
forfeited the money and was given a 5 year indeterminate sentence. He was
released from prison in less than 15 months.
Ernesto Alverez and his organization used $100,000.00 in a deal that included the purchase of 50 kilos of Cocaine. After making the deal, he and members of his organization was arrested by SCPO. No one was charged as a kingpin and he voluntarily forfeited the money and was given a 7 year flat [page 13] sentence. He released from prison in less than two years.
SCPO confiscated approximately $1,000,000.00 in cash from an organization after they made a deal, not only to purchase multi-kilos of Cocaine, but also to launder one-half million dollars of the money. That money was forfeited and the leader of the organization received a 10 year flat sentence. She was released from prison in a little over two years. No one in that organization was charged as a kingpin either. (57T36-5 to 37-6).
Even at a post trial hearing, defendant brought to the Court's attention that Victor Travino wanted by the Federal Government for importing over 500 kilos of Cocaine into Miami, Florida at the time he was arrested by SCPO, was charged as a leader of a narcotics trafficking network. Travino's bail was set at two-million dollars and then raised to ten-million after an apparent attempt to make bail. He voluntarily forfeited $150,000.00 in cash used to purchase approximately 20 kilos of Cocaine and he received a sentence of 15 years flat after the kingpin charge was dropped. He is currently eligible to be released from prison on that sentence. (BMT5-1 to 12-11).
None of these facts brought out by defendant were disputed by the Prosecutor.