WEST ORANGE, NJ - James Sodano, 69, of West Orange was convicted in federal court today for his participation in the robbery and shooting of a retired police officer working as an armed money courier.
Sodano was guilty 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.
The two and a half week trial, with U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan presiding, brings with it 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 scheduled for July 8, 2013.
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The crime began on May 19, 2011. Sodano and another armed man confronted a retired police officer who was 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, gunfire ensued, and the courier fell to the ground as the gunman fled.
Sodano approached the courier from behind, and shot the retired officer in the jaw. The victim fired a shot, which hit Sodano in the leg. Sodano shot the retired officer again, this time in the arm. He then He took 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. Police found Sodano, wearing a bulletproof vest and a pair of gloves, slipping in and out of consciousness, grasping the steering wheel. Police found a pool of blood, weapons, ammunition and the bag containing the $400,000 inside the car. His accomplice escaped and remains at large. The courier survived the attack.
U.S. Attorney Paul 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’sguilty verdict. He also thanked the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Newark Police Department, for their roles in the case.
The government was 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.