This is Part 13 of my continuing coverage of the legal plight of Bruce Aristeo of Camden, New Jersey that began with a relationship breakup and civil dispute with Jody Raines and subsequently escalated to the Camden County (NJ) Prosecutor’s Office. His trial begins in January 11, 2016.
(NOTE: Because I have written numerous articles on the Jody Raines – Camden County Prosecutors vs. Bruce Aristeo Legal Saga, there is now an article index I refer new readers to read and catch-up. I highly recommend you read the articles in chronological order to get the full, complete story with the proper context.)
In an early interview with Bruce Aristeo, he mentioned that a Camden County Prosecutor offered a plea bargain deal to him. Because I had so many documents to read, study, and digest, I didn’t follow up on the plea bargain thread. I finally remembered to ask him what were the specifics of the plea bargain deals offered to him.
He responded to my email regarding the initial plea bargain deal:
It was stated to me:
- Immediate release from jail for a plea to stalking
- 5 years probation
- 1 year psychological evaluation & treatment
- Fines and penalties
- Criminal Restraining Order
- Indefinite TRO
In an email snippet from July 10, 2013, Tracy Cogan writes, “My offer stands, plead to stalking for probation.”
I also obtained a copy of Tracy Cogan’s October 22, 2013 letter for the second plea bargain deal which was sent to Bruce after he fired the public defender and became a “pro se” (self-represented) defendant.
I pasted the portion of text which refers to the second plea bargain deal. (BOLD is my emphasis)
The State’s plea offer in this matter is, in exchange for a guilty plea to third degree stalking, in violation of N.J.S. 2C:12-10c, two years probation, time served as of the date of the plea and mandatory fines and penalties. The remaining terms and conditions of the probation would be in the Court’s discretion. A guilty plea to stalking requires the entry of a permanent criminal restraining order, in addition to the Indefinite Temporary Restraining Order issued in Family Court, barring any contact with the victim in this matter, Jody Raines.
In the alternative, the State would accept a plea offer to fourth degree stalking, in violation of N.J.S. 2C:12-10b, for 18 months probation, again time served as of the date of the plea and mandatory fines and penalties, as well as leaving the remaining terms and conditions of probation in the Court’s discretion. A conviction for fourth degree stalking also requires the entry of a criminal restraining order, in addition to the Indefinite Restraining Order issued in family Court, barring any contact with Ms. Raines.
Interestingly, when Bruce was working with a public defender in July 2013, Tracy Cogan’s offer was much stiffer at five-years probation with immediate release, fines and penalties, one-year psychological evaluation and treatment, and a criminal restraining order.
Three months later, in October 2013, Tracy offered Bruce (as “pro se” defendant) two alternatives to choose from. One option was third-degree stalking with two-years probation, time served, fines and penalties, and a criminal restraining order. The other option was fourth-degree stalking with 18-months probation, time served, fines and penalties, and a criminal restraining order. No psychological evaluation and treatment in either option.
If I were in Bruce’s shoes looking at these options, they were all terrible options and would brand him a criminal for life. I don’t blame Bruce at all for rejecting these terrible options even if that meant him sitting in jail for six-months as he did.
Bruce had previously and unwisely succumbed to legal pressure and agreed to the overbroad “indefinite” temporary restraining order (TRO) which was subsequently used as a blunt force legal instrument and stepping stone for his wrongful arrest and wrongful indictment over his YouTube videos. He smartly did not make the same mistake again and willingly agree to a criminal charge and a criminal restraining order (which would be added on top of the previous “indefinite” TRO).
Tracy Cogan wants Bruce to accept the plea bargain deals to make his case go away. With Bruce’s trial only three weeks away (January 11, 2016), that does not seem likely to happen.
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