A former New Jersey Democratic county chairman has pleaded not guilty to charges he used the organization as a racketeering enterprise to engage in bribery and kickbacks.

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Joseph Ferriero entered his pleas Monday during a brief hearing in U.S. District Court in Newark. He was indicted a few weeks ago on racketeering, bribery conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud counts.

Ferriero is charged with operating the Bergen County Democratic Organization as a racketeering enterprise from 2001 to 2008. The indictment alleges he solicited bribes from a Virginia real estate investment trust and a New Jersey software developer in exchange for using his official influence.

Ferriero also is accused of paying kickbacks to gain municipal contracts for a consulting company he owned.

Ferriero was convicted of conspiracy and mail fraud in 2009. But those convictions were tossed after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling narrowed the applicable law.

Ferriero declined comment after the hearing, but his attorney, Michael Baldassare, told The Record that he was confident his client would be vindicated.

"We are confident that once again after the jury hears the facts and the law, he'll leave this courthouse a free man with his name cleared," Baldassare said.


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