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Wednesday, April 24, 2024


Judge Removes Troiano’s Defense Lawyer Who Plans to Become Prosecutor

Shay Roddy/File Photo
Brian Pelloni, right, with his client, Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. seated beside him at a hearing in January. Pelloni was removed from the case by a Superior Court judge last week, after he reportedly accepted a job with the state Attorney General’s Office, the same agency prosecuting Troiano.

By Shay Roddy

Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. will need a new lawyer to fight the state’s criminal charges against him, after a judge ruled his defense attorney can’t stay on the case because he reportedly accepted a job working for the agency prosecuting Troiano. 

Brian Pelloni, the lawyer, must be removed from the case, following a ruling by Superior Court Presiding Judge Bernard E. DeLury Jr., according to a report in The Press of Atlantic City. The Attorney General’s Office had reportedly objected to Pelloni’s remaining on after the issue was first raised at a hearing in January.

Troiano told the judge at a hearing Jan. 26 he would like to keep Pelloni, who has been defending him since health benefits fraud charges were first brought against him by the Attorney General’s Office in June 2022, even after the lawyer accepts the job offer from the agency prosecuting him.

However, DeLury reportedly ruled the conflict isn’t waivable at a hearing Feb. 16.

Troiano, along with former Mayor Pete Byron and Commissioner Steve Mikulski, is under indictment for second-degree official misconduct, second-degree theft by unlawful taking, third-degree tampering with public records and fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records.

The state accuses them of unlawfully accepting health benefits reserved for full-time city employees while serving as part-time elected officials. The three defendants have said they did work full time, well over the 35-hour weekly schedule the statute refers to.

The job as an environmental crimes prosecutor that was offered to Pelloni is within the Attorney General’s Division of Criminal Justice, but a different unit within the division is prosecuting Troiano. The charges are being handled by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability.

“This job is truly my dream job,” Pelloni told the judge of the Attorney General’s Office’s offer in January, adding he has multiple degrees in environmental science and environmental engineering.

Pelloni had expressed interest in remaining on the Troiano case before being booted by DeLury and said he was already set to try the matter. He said in January that he felt continuing to represent Troiano would not necessarily constitute a conflict.

“It’s a different unit than OPIA (Office of Public Integrity and Accountability),” Pelloni said in court Jan. 26. “Completely different chief of staff. Different directors. No real connection, as far as I understand, with the division that’s handling the matter against my client. I don’t believe there’s any communication between them.”

Louis F. Hornstine, a retired Superior Court judge, has also been working behind the scenes on Troiano’s defense. Hornstine cannot appear in New Jersey state court because he receives a pension as a result of his work as a state court judge.

Troiano, who said he had been eager to get to trial, will now have to find new representation, which could cause significant delays in his case, as whoever relieves Pelloni will have to get up to speed on what both sides have described as voluminous discovery.

Contact the author, Shay Roddy, at or 609-886-8600, ext. 142.


Shay Roddy is a Delaware County, Pennsylvania native who has always spent as much of his summers as he could at the Jersey Shore. He went to Friends’ Central and is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

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