The former chairman of the state Senate's budget committee was convicted Tuesday of bribery and pension fraud, making him one of the most powerful New Jersey public officials found guilty of federal corruption in recent years.
Former state Sen. Wayne Bryant was found guilty on all 12 counts alleging he took a "low-show" job at a branch of the scandal-ridden University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey as a bribe for directing state money to the institution.
Later, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie said Bryant was more brazen than other elected officials on the take.
"He stole in plain sight," Christie said of the Democrat who was one of the state's most powerful politicians. "He thumbs his nose at the public."
The scam was uncovered by a federal monitor assigned to investigate UMDNJ after it was discovered that UMDNJ double-billed for services covered by Medicare.
Prosecutors said Bryant had almost no legitimate responsibilities at UMDNJ's School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, which is in the southern New Jersey legislative district he represented.
Witnesses testified that he showed up on some Tuesday mornings and was seen reading the newspaper and talking on the phone in his office — but doing no other work.
But between 2003 and 2006 — when he worked for the school — officials said he boosted its funding from the state by at least $10.5 million.
Michael Gallagher, the dean who hired Bryant for the $35,000-a-year job at the school, was also convicted on one bribery charge and five mail fraud charges. He was acquitted on one mail fraud charge. His lawyers, Ralph Jacobs and Jeremy Frey, said they expected to appeal.
Bryant was also convicted of boosting his pension by taking another public-sector job at the Gloucester County Board of Social Services. Associates at his law firm did thousands of hours of work there, but he received pension credit for it, authorities said.
The five charges dealing with the pension were more complicated because there is no law against New Jersey elected officials holding other public-sector jobs or getting pension credit for work done by subordinates.