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Press Release

Jury Convicts Essex County, N.J., Man In Armed Robbery And Shooting Of Retired Police Officer

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. – A Essex County, N.J., man was convicted by a federal jury in Trenton federal court today on all counts related to the robbery and shooting of a retired police officer working as an armed money courier, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

The jury returned guilty verdicts against James Sodano, 69, of West Orange, N.J., following a two-and-a-half-week trial before U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan. Sodano was convicted on all three counts charged in the Indictment: conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery; Hobbs Act robbery; and possessing, carrying and using a firearm, which was discharged in connection with the robbery.

According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial:

On May 19, 2011, Sodano and another armed man confronted a retired police officer working as an armed money courier for a check cashing service as he was delivering a bag containing $400,000 to a Newark bar. As he exited his car, an armed man approached him, and the two men exchanged gunfire. The courier fell to his knees, and the armed man fled.

Sodano approached the courier from behind, shooting him in the jaw. As the victim fell, he fired a shot, hitting Sodano in the leg. Sodano shot him again, hitting the victim in the arm. Sodano then pulled the bag of money from beneath the victim as he was lying face down on the ground. Sodano drove off in his car, but crashed three and a half blocks away. When police arrived, they found Sodano, wearing a bulletproof vest and a pair of gloves, slipping in and out of consciousness, still holding on to the steering wheel. Police found a pool of blood, several weapons, ammunition and the bag containing the $400,000 inside the car.

Sodano faces a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison on the Hobbs Act conspiracy charge and a maximum of 20 years for the Hobbs Act robbery charge. For the conviction on the count of possessing, carrying and using a firearm, which was discharged in furtherance of the Hobbs Act robbery, Sodano faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum potential penalty of life in prison, which must run consecutively to any Hobbs Act robbery prison term. Each count also carries a maximum $250,000 fine. Sentencing is currently scheduled for July 8, 2013.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge David Velazquez in Newark, for the investigation leading to today’s guilty verdict. He also thanked the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Newark Police Department, for their roles in the case.

The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel Serina M. Vash and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dara Aquila Govan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.


Defense counsel: Hal Haveson Esq., Princeton, N.J.

Updated March 18, 2015