In the swamps and SUVs with tinted windows, in the massage parlors and gated luxury apartments, the tough guys and wise guys and be-robed overlords of the New Jersey political world profusely sweated out the week in the aftermath of a murder guilty plea by political operative Sean Caddle.
There was a lot of sweat soaking a lot of armpits out there.
More than merely the stink of the swamps emptied into the air.
For in his role as an underworld, soft side of the game guru who worked many campaigns, from helping wrestle the Elizabeth Board of Education out of insurrectionary hands, to unsuccessfully attempting to bury Atlantic City’s current form of government, to muddying the opposition of a 2014 Bayonne mayoral contender, Caddle knew a lot of people.
Not at all.
Associates. Clients. Political contacts. Bodies to protect. Bodies to remove.
“The people you meet in politics,” to paraphrase a Hudson source.
He swam in a lot of overlapping circles.
The fact that he pleaded guilty to murdering his former business partner and is allowed to stay out of jail, to sleep in the comfort of his own home, to remain out and about on a one million dollar secure bond, told those with their ears pressed against the dark floorboards of this case one thing:
He cooperated with the feds.
The word quivered like a knife in corkboard.
A source, speaking on condition of anonymity, speculated that Caddle’s two accomplices, the men with the actual knives and the matches, or one of them, coughed up Caddle, and Caddle, confronted with the proof, probably on a recording, video or audio, wandered from September of last year until now out in the wilderness of New Jersey, a human dragnet nursing, presumably, a wire.
So, this week, when the news came down that Caddle pleaded guilty to murder but wasn’t behind bars (“Highly irregular,” a source said), people in the New Jersey political universe chattered in terror, retracing their steps, wondering about their conversations – if any – with the bald, heavyset operative who never spoke much.
Prosecutors look for two things when they stick a wire on someone, wind him up and let him loose: quality and quantity. The feds allowing Caddle to sit at home in his jammies means they’re happy with the quality, and quantity.
Another big squirt of sweat visited the armpits of New Jersey.
Was Caddle the next Solomon Dwek?
Could dozens of bodies connected to the network get barfed onto the landscape as early as this week?
“I’m just a nobody,” a voice quavered.
The idea that an admitted murderer could walk out of a jail house meant something more than even a million small potatoes.
It had to be something, someone – bigger.
The size of a state senator?
Five senators and a mayor?
A veteran source, speaking on condition of anonymity, surmised “Bigger than a congressman” on the hook, at the end of the dock – given the freedom factor for Caddle, given . “My experience tells me this is going to be made for the movies,” a source told InsiderNJ.
To a man, four sources on background told InsiderNJ the political network was all a-shiver. “Terrified,” one source summarized. “Imagine. Anyone who talked to him [Caddle] in the last four months has to be XXXing a brick right now.”
It was theoretical, but most sources with experience in criminal matters argued that it was not inconceivable that Caddle – with access to monies from the PAC he ran and his co-conspirators – fixed Mike Galdieri in 2014 with a self-contained motive. There were theories running through the streets; one in particular about a highly valued art work baffled, and perhaps stretched the limits of credulity. If that were the case, Caddle cooperated with helpful information – not about Galdieri – but about other matters, political in scope, perhaps related to the PAC, or drawing from a deeper network of associations, with – again – much higher federal targets – or target – in sight; or perhaps related to another case similar to Galdieri’s, but it all amounted to speculation. It should be noted, that more than a few people – including Politico NJ reporter Matt Friedman, who first tweeted the question – murmured about the always-rankling Sheridan case (stabbings, fire, 2014 [May for Galdieri , Sept. for the Sheridans], of the same year, 2014).
Of course, it was not outside the realm of possibility that Caddle’s cooperation related to the Galdieri case. Unlikely, unless – unless the conspirator bigger than Caddle was very big.
Not bloody likely.
It had to be something else, the sources argued through frayed nerves.
In the meantime, a white man was out of jail, and his two accomplices – “the two people of color”, one source noted – jailed.
How long would it take for outrage to mount?
Would a statewide star in handcuffs sooner rather than later suffice to feed the beast of anxiety and unrest?
Caddle at home meant the feds certainly believed he was not a flight risk.
They believed the public was safe.
Something massive – by New Jersey’s standards – and decidedly political, percolated on the end of a federal wire transcribed to tape.
The state sat in a swamp of sweat.