Ex-Salem official to plead guilty in drug case
BRENTWOOD - Salem's former zoning board of adjustment chairman has agreed to plead guilty to felony drug charges roughly a year after he was arrested for allegedly selling oxycodone to an informant working with police.
Ronald Giordano, 53, has signed an agreement to plead guilty to charges related to his criminal case pending in Rockingham County Superior Court. The tentative agreement will allow Giordano to avoid his Jan. 7 trial on four felony drug charges. Terms of the agreement have not yet been made public. Giordano is expected to appear back in superior court on Feb. 14 to enter his guilty plea and be sentenced, prosecutors said.
The charges pending against Giordano are felonies, punishable by state prison terms. But a plea agreement signals that county prosecutors will likely recommend to a judge that a lesser sentence be imposed - such as county jail time or a suspended sentence - in exchange for an admission of guilt. Giordano resigned from his elected seat on the zoning board following his arrest last December. Police say he sold more than 100 pills to an informant working with Salem police between Dec. 11 and 29, 2011.
The informant, who was never named in court, had initially tipped off police about Giordano's alleged drug activity, according to police and court records. Salem police Detective Michael Bernard said in a sworn affidavit that he kept the informant under surveillance while he met with Giordano and bought the pills from him at a parking lot on North Broadway in Salem as well as another transaction at Giordano's home. Investigators gave the informant marked currency to buy the drugs, and seized the pills from the informant following the alleged transactions, police said.
Investigators said they later recovered the marked money from Giordano and seized $6,000 in cash from his home. Giordano remains free on $10,000 cash bail. He was indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit sale of a controlled drug, violation of the controlled drug act and two counts of sale of a controlled drug. If the plea is accepted by a judge, the conviction will mark the third time a Salem town official has been convicted on criminal charges within the last year.
Former budget committee member Patrick McDougall was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of obstructing government administration for preventing EMT workers from transporting his wife to a hospital after she repeatedly called 911. He still faces felony charges in connection with that case.
In September, former Salem planning board member Jeffrey Gray was sentenced to 7 to 14 years in state prison for luring a pregnant woman to his home and raping her.
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James A. Kimble may be reached at JKimble@newstote.com..