The alleged killer is in shock The hiring murder case that sparked New Jersey politics in recent months on Thursday confessed to killing a Jersey City political operative eight years ago and then took thousands of dollars as payment from the man’s former partner.
George Bratenis, 73, appeared in a video conference before Judge John Michael Vazquez in Newark to plead guilty to the May 22, 2014, murder of operative Michael Goldieri.
Speaking from a federal prison, Bratenis confirmed in a gravel voice that he had met with Goldieri’s former partner Sean Caddle in April 2014 to prepare for the assassination and agree on payment.
A month later, Bratenis and his partner Bomani Africa entered Galdieri’s apartment and stabbed him to death. Bratenis said he met Caddle the next day at Elizabeth’s diner to raise the thousands of dollars promised to him and then share the profits with Africa.
White-bearded and bald Bratenis for most of the hearing spoke in phrases of two or three words. Except when he said a friendly goodbye at his graduation.
“Have a nice day,” Bratenis said. “Don’t take it to heart.”
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Bratenis faces life imprisonment for this crime. The court said he would be entitled to the death penalty, but the government decided not to carry it out.
Vazquez will sentence him on August 2.
The statement is another twist in a bizarre case that has plagued the state’s political community since the federal government announced it in January.
Authorities have not announced why Caddle wanted to kill his old partner. But 44-year-old Caddle is now cooperating with authorities while awaiting sentencing from his home in Sussex County. And the New Jersey political community is holding its own.
Both Caddle and Africa have already pleaded guilty to their involvement in the scheme.
But federal authorities have not even announced formal charges against Bratenis, a career criminal and convicted murderer, until this week. And this despite the fact that Bratenis signed a plea agreement on August 10, 2021 – long before Caddle’s case was made public.
Bratenis appeared in federal court in late February, but Vazquez quickly called a hearing without explanation.
Currently incarcerated for armed robbery in Connecticut in 2014, Bratenis has long rap lists spanning decades. He was convicted of murder and armed robbery in Connecticut in the 1980s and later found guilty of committing a number of thefts of jewelry stores in New Jersey that sent him off for decades.
In 2010, he was released after 24 years in prison.
But Bratenis was handcuffed again four years after police accused him of robbing a Connecticut bank in Africa, a 61-year-old man from Philadelphia whom he met in prison.
The federal prosecutor’s office said the couple killed Goldieri by the end of Bratenis’ four-year sentence.
However, his lawyer Charles L. Kurmai argued in court last month that Bratenis should be released on charges of armed robbery because he has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer.
“Mr. Bratenis is old. He is sick. He knows the mistakes he made in his life and paid for them, ”Kurmai wrote in the article. “He would like to be able not to die in prison.”
Bratenis pleaded guilty to murder four weeks after Kurmai’s statement.
Steve Janoski covers law enforcement for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the most important news about those who protect your local community, subscribe or activate your digital account today.