NEWARK, NJ (AP) — He robbed banks and jewelry stores, plotted an audacious jailbreak and once served time for a murder plot.
Now, aged 73, George Bratsenis is due back in court Thursday to file a plea in connection with a political murder mystery in New Jersey.
Bratsenis, a career criminal from Connecticut, has been implicated in court—but not yet publicly charged—as one of two mercenary hit men who murdered a Democratic political adviser in 2014.
Prosecutors have revealed little about what led to the death of consultant Michael Galdieri, who was stabbed to death in his Jersey City apartment, which was then set on fire.
Fellow political operative Sean Cadel, one of Galdieri’s aides, pleaded guilty in January to hiring two men to commit the murders, but did not explain why he wanted his lifelong friend to die.
Bomani Africa, a man who spent time with Bratsenis in a New Jersey prison in the early 2000s, also pleaded guilty to murder in January. He named Bratsenis as the accomplice who had helped put Galadieri to death.
The revelation shocked political circles in New Jersey, a state notorious for receiving dozens of political corruption sentences over the past three decades, as well as the 2013 “Bridgegate” scandal, in which political vendettas were deliberately built near the busy George Washington Bridge. Including traffic jams.
Chief among the questions surrounding the case: Why did Cadel set the plot in motion? What was his relation to the two former convicts who had allegedly committed the murder? And why have federal prosecutors said so little about the crime?
Cadel’s plea agreement referred briefly and vaguely to providing information to investigators, but did not say what. The US Attorney’s Office declined comment, as did Bratsenis’s attorney.
Less mysterious is the extraordinary depth and breadth of Bratsenis’ criminal past.
After serving in the Marines from 1968 to 1974, Bratsenis began serving sentences for drug, robbery, and weapons offenses in Connecticut and New Jersey.
In the summer of 1980, according to Connecticut officials, Bratsenis, along with a former Stamford police lieutenant and two others, conspired to assassinate a distinguished drug courier, David Avnayim, whose body was found in Redding, west of New Haven. was found in the trunk of the car. ,
Bratsenis was not charged until four years later, but was eventually convicted of conspiracy to murder. Lawrence Hogan, a former police lieutenant, was convicted of conspiring to buy 2 pounds of heroin from an undercover agent, but pleaded guilty on appeal and then died not long after of natural causes.
Private investigator Vito Colucci, who as a Stamford police officer in the late 1970s wore a string to help uncover rampant corruption in the city’s police department, recalled Bratsenis and those who At that time there were “like walking people”. Down the road and if someone offered them $1,500 to beat someone up, they would say ‘Okay!’ And go do it.”
By the time he was charged with Avnayim’s murder, Bratsenis was already behind bars, the result of a 1983 conviction for robbing a jewelry store in Little Falls, New Jersey.
While in prison in New Jersey, he plotted an escape attempt in which he planned to hide a bag of drugs in his rectum and detonate it while appearing in court, prompting officers to take him to a hospital. Forced, where gunmen hired by his sister spring him. , according to reports published at the time.
The plot was foiled and Bratsenis eventually pleaded guilty to the conspiracy. According to court records, his sister received three years’ probation.
By the late 2000s, Bratsenis was in the Northern State Prison in Newark, New Jersey, having spent more than 25 years behind bars. It was there, Connecticut officials alleged in court filings, that he befriended Afrika, a Philadelphian, and the two began planning to rob banks when he was paroled.
Sean Caddle’s brother James Cadell was also held in prison during that time, although it is not known whether he knew Bratsenis or Afrika. According to an obituary posted online, James Cadel died in 2016.
After being released from prison, Afrika and Bratsenis robbed two banks in Connecticut in 2014, including a week before Galdieri’s murder. Bratsenis was arrested after a robbery and has been in prison ever since. Both men have confessed to their crime and await sentencing, scheduled for Bratsenis next month.
Bratsenis is being held at a federal detention center in New York City.
Last month, long, white-haired Bratsenis, dressed in prison uniform and shackles, stormed the courtroom in Newark – but proceedings ended abruptly after lawyers met in the judge’s chambers with no explanation.
In court papers in the bank robbery case, Bratsenis’s lawyer has argued for a time sentence, noting that his client has been diagnosed with cancer and a respiratory disease.
Lawyer Charles Kurme said: “His time in prison, his cancer diagnosis, and his age have made Mr. Bratsenis reflect on his long and difficult life, the mistakes he has made, and how he wants to live the rest.” ” wrote.
The attorney did not mention the murder investigation pending in New Jersey.