George Bratsenis, a third defendant in a New Jersey murder-for-hire, pleaded guilty Thursday to taking part in a crime that left a Jersey City man dead in 2014.
The admission in federal court, via video conference, solidified Bratsenis’ participation in a case that has jolted New Jersey politics ever since Democratic political operative Sean Caddle admitted on Jan. 25 to paying thousands of dollars to have an associate, Michael Galdieri, killed nearly eight years ago.
One of the two hit men, Bomani Africa, 61, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty to his role in the killing the following day, Jan. 26.
Prosecutors still haven’t publicly stated a motive for the murder. And the plea hearing for Bratsenis, who had been named as an alleged hit man in previous court proceedings, revealed few new details beyond the fact that Bratsenis agreed to a plea deal last August with the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office.
White-bearded and wearing a faded white T-shirt, Bratsenis appeared by video in front of U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez in Newark, N.J., for a hearing that lasted just over a half-hour.
In response to a brief line of questioning from federal prosecutor Lee M. Cortes Jr., Bratsenis admitted to meeting with Caddle in April 2014. He said he agreed to accept payment from Caddle for the murder of Galdieri, and went to Galdieri’s Jersey City apartment to kill him, with Africa, on May 22, 2014.
Bratsenis also admitted that Caddle paid him “thousands of dollars” in cash for the murder the next day at an Elizabeth City, N.J., diner.
Until Thursday, prosecutors had yet to formally charge Bratsenis in connection with Galdieri’s death.
Bratsenis has been sitting in prison, however. His criminal career goes back decades. A Vietnam War veteran, Bratsenis later went to prison for his roles in a 1980 murder conspiracy in Connecticut, and a string of jewelry store heists in New Jersey between 1979 and 1983. At one point, in 1985, Bratsenis planned to break out of prison in a brazen plot that was foiled before it began.
More recently, both Bratsenis and Africa pleaded guilty in the case of a 2014 armed bank robbery in Connecticut. The two men — who’d met as prison inmates in New Jersey — grabbed $29,937 from a bank in Trumbull, Conn., prosecutors said, and a witness later saw their stolen getaway car set afire in a nearby parking lot.
Days later, on Sept. 29, 2014, Bratsenis was arrested while out driving. Africa was apprehended later, in 2015.
Africa and Bratsenis both eventually pleaded guilty in the bank robbery case — but have continued to await sentencing for years. During that time, in December 2020, court documents show that Africa reached a deal with New Jersey federal prosecutors on a murder-for-hire conspiracy charge.
On Thursday, the prosecution disclosed that Bratsenis agreed to a plea deal in August 20201.
Caddle signed a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office last November, according to filings. At his January hearing, Caddle’s attorney, Edwin Jacobs, said Caddle was cooperating “with the FBI in developing an important investigation.”