Political consultant admits hiring 2 men to kill longtime associate
By Ed Shanahan and Tracey Tully
A New Jersey political consultant admitted Tuesday that he hired two men to kill a longtime associate who had worked for him on campaigns, and was found fatally stabbed in his burning apartment eight years ago, federal officials said.
Over the years, the consultant, Sean Caddle, has counted several prominent North Jersey Democrats among his clients, including Sen. Robert Menendez, according to interviews and federal election records.
Caddle, 44, of Hamburg, New Jersey, pleaded guilty via videoconference in U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey, to conspiracy to commit murder for hire. A judge allowed him to remain free, confined to his home, on a $1 million bond. He faces up to life in prison. A sentencing date has not been set.
Neither a court filing nor federal officials identified the victim, but their description matched the details of the killing of Michael Galdieri, 52, a longtime Hudson County, New Jersey, political operative, as reported by The Jersey Journal of Jersey City.
“This was a callous and violent crime, and this defendant is as responsible as the two men who wielded the knife,” Philip R. Sellinger, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, said in a statement.
Caddle’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment. Prosecutors did not say what Caddle’s motive was, nor did they indicate why they did not identify the victim.
According to the court filing, Caddle recruited one of the men involved in the scheme in April 2014. That man brought in the second man and then told Caddle that the two of them would carry out the killing.
Caddle gave the men the identity of the intended victim and paid them several thousand dollars in cash in advance, the filing says.
On May 22, 2014, the filing says, the men traveled to New Jersey — one from Connecticut, the other from Pennsylvania — and went to the victim’s Jersey City apartment. They fatally stabbed him and set the apartment on fire.
The next day, after learning that the victim was dead, Caddle met the first man hired in the scheme in the parking lot of an Elizabeth, New Jersey, diner and paid him thousands of dollars more, the filing says. The man split the money with his accomplice, according to the court papers. They are identified only as “CC-1” and “CC-2.”
The Journal reported at the time that firefighters responding to a blaze at Galdieri’s Mallory Avenue apartment had found him fatally stabbed. The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, The Journal reported, adding that investigators believed the fire was meant to cover up the killing.
Galdieri’s father, James Galdieri, was a state senator and his grandfather, also James Galdieri, served briefly in the state Assembly. Reached by phone Tuesday, Michael Galdieri’s sister, Virginia, declined to comment on behalf of the family.
While much of Caddle’s work involved local and state races, he was a political consultant for Menendez, a congressman at the time, from 2003 until early 2005, collecting nearly $100,000 in payments and additional money for travel and other expenses. A spokesperson for the senator did not respond to a request for comment.
William O’Dea, a Hudson County commissioner and former Jersey City councilman, said he was familiar with Caddle and Galdieri. He called Galdieri a friend and said he had worked on his 1989 council campaign.
“We grew up together in St. Al’s parish, and he loved politics from a young age,” O’Dea said, referring to the Jersey City neighborhood served by St. Aloysius Catholic Church.
O’Dea said he was stunned to hear that Caddle had admitted to hiring hit men.
“I’m totally shocked,” he said. “But as unfortunate as it seems to be, it always seems to happen in Hudson County.”
He said that Caddle’s early political work mostly involved what he called the “street operation” of campaigns: door-knocking and working to make sure absentee ballots were delivered to election officials.
“He was a guy that would be more likely to send out a group to rip down signs close to Election Day,” O’Dea said.
Caddle went on to run campaigns on his own, earning a reputation for being politically savvy and intense.
Raymond Lesniak, a fellow Democrat and longtime state senator from Elizabeth who is now retired, said Caddle was a “teddy bear” and a “gentle giant.” He also praised his skill at getting out the vote.
“He was the best field director in the country,” said Lesniak, who described first hiring Caddle after narrowly avoiding a reelection defeat in 2011. He won his next race handily and credited Caddle with saving his political life. “Without a doubt,” Lesniak said.
Lesniak, too, was taken aback to learn of Caddle’s guilty plea.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said upon answering the phone, adding an expletive for emphasis. He noted that the crime Caddle had admitted to occurred while they were working together, and that they were still in touch.
“I talked to him today,” Lesniak said. “He didn’t say anything about it.”