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Bryant's jobs are at core of legal tiff

The judge hears arguments over what jurors can hear in the ex-senator's fraud trial, set to begin Sept. 8.

Former State Sen. Wayne Bryant may no longer face a criminal charge related to his employment at Rutgers University-Camden, but federal prosecutors still want to talk about that job during his fraud trial next month.

Bryant, once one of the state's most powerful Democrats, has been accused of holding three no-show public jobs, including his Rutgers position, and using them to illegally pad the value of his state pension.

The charge related to his adjunct professorship at Rutgers was thrown out in June. Prosecutors want to tell the jurors about all the jobs that Bryant held, however, to show he couldn't have spent the amount of time he claimed on each one.

In their motion, prosecutors made that point with a pointed reference to a

Harry Potter


"Absent evidence that Bryant was able to employ Hermione Granger's 'timeturner' device, the limits of time and space mean that every additional job Bryant took on reduced his ability to perform his duties at the other jobs," they wrote.

The passage is accompanied by a footnote to author J.K. Rowling's

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Bryant's attorneys were not amused.

"Condescendingly dismissing the imagined defense response as the stuff of a children's book, the government appears to have lost sight of the gravity attending a federal indictment," they wrote in response.

Both sides argued their positions yesterday before District Judge Freda Wolfson in Trenton.

The trial for Bryant and codefendant R. Michael Gallagher is scheduled to begin with jury selection in Wolfson's court on Sept. 8.

The judge suggested some remedies yesterday for handling Bryant's Rutgers employment at trial, but she did not make a decision on the matter.

Bryant, former chair of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, still faces 12 counts and a lengthy sentence if convicted.

Prosecutors have accused him of soliciting a no-show job at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, in exchange for steering millions to the school from the state budget.

Bryant's title there was program support coordinator with the responsibility to improve school relations with governments and the community.

Gallagher, a doctor and former dean at UMDNJ's School of Osteopathic Medicine, is accused of arranging Bryant's job and helping to hide the true nature of the arrangement.

Bryant, of Camden County, did not run for reelection after he was indicted last year.

In addition to his work in the Senate and at a Camden law firm that bears his name, Bryant held three publicly funded positions - the ones at Rutgers and UMDNJ, as well as attorney for the Gloucester County Board of Social Services.

From 2003 to 2005, when he held all those jobs, Bryant increased the value of his pension from $28,000 to $81,000, prosecutors said.

State pensions are based on an employee's highest three years of earnings. Bryant's "high three" were 2003 through 2005. He applied in 2006 to begin receiving his benefits, but the application was not processed because of the criminal investigation.

Wolfson dismissed the Rutgers charge, saying that if Bryant gave just one lecture a year, university administrators were within their rights to pay him whatever they chose.

From 2003 to 2005, Rutgers paid Bryant between $30,000 and $35,000, although prosecutors said he was rarely on campus.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman Gross said yesterday that the Rutgers job helped to explain Bryant's true intention.

"He's clearly out to maximize his pension," he said. "He's got pension on the brain."

Wolfson suggested that the two sides agree to tell the jury that Bryant worked at Rutgers and give his employment dates and salary.

Gross said yesterday that Bryant solicited his Rutgers job while talking to school officials about state money that could be available to them. He asked that jurors be told that Bryant sought out the job.

Wolfson said that could be done, but the jurors also should be told that holding multiple public jobs and soliciting the Rutgers position were not illegal.

"There has to be something that balances it," she said.

In court papers, prosecutors said Bryant solicited jobs from both the dean of the Camden-Rutgers law school and the president of UMDNJ in the fall of 2002, as he anticipated his retirement.

The charges related to Bryant's employment at UMDNJ and the social services board have remained in the case because Bryant was accused of making false statements about how much work he did in those jobs.

Although he had been the social services board's attorney since 1996, the amount he billed Gloucester County increased in 2003 to $53,000 - up from about $33,000 - which also added to the value of his pension.

Prosecutors allege that Bryant farmed out nearly all the social services work to other lawyers in his firm.

At UMDNJ, Bryant's position called for him to work three days a week, but prosecutors said he only spent a half-day at his job - and he spent most of that time reading the newspaper.

Evidence related to all three jobs "is necessary to show how much time, effort and political capital Bryant was willing to expend in order to increase his pension benefits," prosecutors wrote.

Bryant's lawyers said they were "confused" by the prosecutor's motion, since the indictment charged Bryant with doing virtually no work at Rutgers.

"Now that the court has dismissed that charge, the government boldly plans to argue that Sen. Bryant's Rutgers job was so demanding as to preclude other work," they wrote. "The court should not countenance such gamesmanship."