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New Jersey political consultant gets 24 years in prison for paying hitmen to kill colleague as motive is finally revealed

A New Jersey political consultant who had two hitmen kill a colleague for $15,000 was sentenced to 24 years in federal prison on Thursday.

Sean Caddle, a 45-year-old former Democratic campaign consultant, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit murder-for-hire in the killing of Michael Galdieri, whose apartment was set on fire after he was fatally stabbed in 2014.

U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez sounded skeptical of Caddle's acceptance of any responsibility, saying it sounded as if he was trying to "save his own skin" by cooperating with prosecutors in a separate tax and wire fraud case that led to a guilty plea from a former top aide to the state Senate president.

"This is one of the most unusual and certainly one of the most heinous crimes I've encountered as a judge," Vazquez said.

Caddle, who had been out of prison on house arrest, was led away by U.S. Marshals after the hearing. He appeared before the judge in an untucked button-down shirt and khakis. He didn't speak, following the advice of his lawyer Edwin Jacobs, other than to tell the judge he wasn't going to comment.

Two of Galdieri's relatives, who declined to give their names, stood shoulder to shoulder in the courtroom as one read a statement from the family.

Political Consultant Murder Plot
U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey is seen ahead of the sentencing on a conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire charge for Sean Caddle, Thursday, June 29, 2023.  Mike Catalini / AP

"How could I effectively articulate the impact that it has on you, that your brother was murdered and his apartment set on fire?" the woman said.

She described a feeling of "complete stupidity and regret" over crying in Caddle's arms after her brother's death. She said she thought at the time that he was a friend of their family.

The case captured attention when prosecutors announced Caddle's guilty plea in early 2022, apparently solving the mysterious death of Galdieri, eight years earlier. 

And this week, prosecutors finally revealed a motive for the hit: Caddle told prosecutors he wanted him dead because Galdieri was threatening to extort money from him in exchange for not exposing wrongdoing Galdieri claimed Caddle committed through his political consulting business. Just what the wrongdoing might have been or how much money Galdieri allegedly sought has not been made public.

Prosecutors got a lucky break when one of two ex-convicts who pleaded guilty to a 2014 Connecticut bank robbery told authorities - unprompted - that he had information about a murder that same year. George Bratsenis was later sentenced to 16 years and Bomani Africa to 20 years after they ultimately pleaded guilty to helping Caddle with the murder.

Bratsenis and Africa had met while in a New Jersey prison where Caddle's now-deceased brother, James Caddle, also was serving time.

Bratsenis told authorities that he went to work for Caddle, who invited him to his Jersey City home for dinner in March or April of 2014. Caddle told him he was aware of his "extensive" criminal history and asked if he could find someone to commit murder for $15,000, Bratsenis said.

Caddle said he wanted Galdieri dead within a month and gave Bratsenis up to $4,000 upfront, according to prosecutors.

On May 22, 2014, the Bratsenis and Africa drove together to the apartment of Galdieri, who had been expecting Bratsensis because they had discussed robbing drug dealers together, authorities said.

Not long after letting the men in, Galdieri was fatally stabbed by both men and they doused his home in gasoline and set it on fire, according to authorities.

A day later, Bratsenis and Caddle met in the parking lot of a diner where Caddle paid him the remaining money. He didn't bring enough initially, however, and had to withdraw more from the bank account of his political consulting business, prosecutors said.

Interviewed about Galdieri's death that same day, Caddle told prosecutors about Galdieri's drug use but did not disclose his role in the killing, they said.

Prosecutor Lee Cortes, speaking in court Thursday, described Caddle's assistance was useful and significant, but the severity of his crime couldn't be overlooked.

"Caddle had a lifelong friend murdered in cold blood. That's one of the most serious crimes that can be admitted," he said.

A prosecutor's memo describes Caddle as "cold-hearted" and says he even attended the repast after Galdieri's funeral.

"Despite being lifelong friends, Caddle paid to have Galdieri murdered because he thought that his own business interests were at risk," U.S. Attorney Sellinger said in a statement. "Today's sentence is a just punishment for a heinous crime and provides some measure of justice for the victim and his family."

Prosecutors sought a 15-year sentence even though life in prison is the minimum for conspiracy to commit a murder-for-hire that results in a death. Some of the sentencing memo was redacted, but prosecutors noted that Caddle's history didn't include other violent crimes and said he cooperated with investigators.

It became clear in court Thursday that Caddle's cooperation helped lead to a guilty plea in November, when a former top aide to the state Senate president admitted to tax and fraud charges related to political consulting he did with Caddle. By inflating political invoices, the former aide made $107,800 and failed to pay taxes, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors described how Caddle had numerous meetings with them and handed over documents and recordings, without which charges in that case would have been difficult to bring.

They also said, recommending that he be sent straight to detention after the sentence, that his time of cooperation had reached a conclusion.

The family member who stood alongside Galdieri's sister said he was pleased at the sentence, flashing a thumbs up when asked for his reaction.

"I'm just happy there's a justice system today and not a legal system," he said.

Galdieri's father was a state senator and his grandfather served briefly in the State Assembly, The New York Times reported.

Caddle was well-known in northern New Jersey politics, with past clients including Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and former Democratic state Sen. Raymond Lesniak.

Lesniak told the Times that Caddle was a "teddy bear" and a "gentle giant." He said he was stunned by Caddle's guilty plea in January.

"I couldn't believe it," he told the newspaper.

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