The second hitman charged in the 2014 murder-for-hire scheme that involves a New Jersey political operative pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday.
George John Bratsenis, 73, appeared by video from a federal prison in Brooklyn to answer charges that he and a second hitman stabbed Michael Galdieri to death in his Jersey City apartment at the command of Sean Caddle, a political consultant who had employed Galdieri. Bratsenis is being held in Brooklyn for an unrelated bank robbery.
Because of Caddle’s involvement, the case has been widely watched by New Jersey’s political observers. Caddle managed former state Sen. Ray Lesniak’s 2017 gubernatorial campaign and aided the power broker in a successful takeover of Elizabeth’s school board.
Bratsenis faces life imprisonment and up to $250,000 in fines when U.S. District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez sentences him on Aug. 2 for the interstate conspiracy. He will also have to pay restitution and return the thousands of dollars Caddle paid him at an Elizabeth diner the day after he and hitman Bomani Africa carried out the May 22, 2014, slaying and set the apartment afire to hide the crime.
As part of his plea agreement, he cannot appeal his conviction nor challenge his sentence. He’s likely to die in prison, with Vazquez telling him he will have to serve 85% of his sentence before being eligible for release.
Caddle and Africa, of Philadelphia, already have pleaded guilty to the plot. The motive for the murder remains unclear.
The balding, bespectacled, bearded Bratsenis briefly answered a few questions Vazquez posed during the hourlong hearing, telling the judge he was born in Stamford, Connecticut, graduated high school there in 1966, served in the military for several years starting in 1968, and had never been treated for addiction but “saw a couple of shrinks” in the 1970s.
He otherwise sat, wearing a white undershirt in a white cinderblock cell, with his eyes cast down, saying little other than “yes, your honor” and “no, your honor” as Vazquez read him his rights, informed him what his plea meant, and shepherded the hearing along.
Thursday’s hearing ended with Bratsenis bidding Vazquez and the various attorneys goodbye with: “You all have a nice day, take it easy.”
Caddle, 44, is on home detention in Sussex County on $1 million bond and also faces life imprisonment.
He was heavily involved in politics in Union County and elsewhere in New Jersey. He also managed the doomed campaign of Oscar Ocasio, a onetime challenger to Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage, and later boosted Elizabeth Board of Education candidates backed by Bollwage using a super PAC called Committee for Economic Growth and Social Justice.
That group, which as a super PAC enjoys far laxer reporting requirements than candidates and political parties, spent hundreds of thousands backing local candidates in Union County, Newark, and Bayonne, among other places, in payments that most often went through Caddle’s consulting firm, Arkady LLC.
Nikita Biryukov contributed to this story.
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