A Jersey City political operative who worked as a consultant to former New Jersey state Sen. Raymond Lesniak pleaded guilty Tuesday in a grisly plot to kill a long-time associate, whose death had stymied investigators for years.
Sean Caddle, 44, of Hamburg, pleaded to one count charging him with conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire in a videoconference before U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez in Newark. Caddle was freed on $1 million unsecured bond and confined to his home with electronic monitoring and travel restrictions.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not name the victim, but those familiar with the case identified him as Michael Galdieri, 52, who was found dead when firefighters responded to a two-alarm blaze in his apartment on May 22, 2014, and discovered his body.
Galdieri lived alone in the second-floor apartment. Authorities at the time disclosed that his body had multiple stab wounds, and believed the fire was set to cover up the murder.
Galdieri was the son of the late former state Sen. James Galdieri. He worked on former state Assemblyman Lou Manzo’s campaign as well as Bret Schundler’s campaign for Jersey City mayor in 1993.
Lesniak, who had spoken with Caddle earlier in the day on Tuesday, said he was shocked.
“He didn’t say anything,” said the Union County Democrat. “I am stunned. This is so bizarre. I can’t believe it.”
Caddle had worked on Lesniak’s last Senate re-election campaign and for other candidates. A few months before the 2014 murder, he had formed a super PAC that The Star-Ledger reported had ties to New Jersey Democrats.
“He was an all-star in terms of being a political operative,” Lesniak said of Caddle.
According to a court filings, Caddle agreed to plead guilty in October, but the matter had been kept confidential until this week. His attorney did not respond to a call seeking comment. The circumstances surrounding his court appearance, meanwhile, raised questions. The plea agreement indicated that Caddle was cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s office regarding other, unspecified crimes. At the same time, he was allowed to remain free for months after agreeing to plead to a murder-for-hire charge, and then released on an unsecured bond after Tuesday’s proceedings despite the seriousness of the crime.
According to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger, the scheme was hatched in April of 2014, when Caddle solicited an unnamed individual in connection with the plot to kill Galdieri, in exchange for thousands of dollars. No motive was suggested, nor was the amount of money that changed hands.
That individual, a Connecticut resident yet to be identified, then recruited an accomplice from Philadelphia to join the plot, authorities said. The two were sent to Galdieri’s apartment, where they allegedly stabbed him to death and set his apartment on fire.
According to Sellinger, Caddle then met the individual he had hired the next day, after learning Galdieri had been murdered, paying him off in the parking lot of a diner in Elizabeth.
“This was a callous and violent crime, and this defendant is as responsible as the two men who wielded the knife,” Sellinger said in a statement. “There is no more serious crime than the taking of another person’s life. The defendant has admitted arranging and paying for a murder by two other people. His admission of guilt means he will now pay for his crime.”
Caddle faces a maximum potential penalty of life imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.