James Sodano, 69 years old and a resident of West Orange, now faces up to 50 years in prison after he was found guilty of robbery, weapons possession and conspiracy. The charges originated from a brazen daytime robbery of an armored truck outside of a Newark restaurant in a residential neighborhood in May of 2011. The robbery led to a shoot out and during the exchange of gunfire a retired cop being shot and wounded. Sodano is currently set to be sentenced by the federal judge in July.
According to evidence and information that came out at trial from witnesses, Sodano was well prepared and actually wearing a bulletproof vest when he and his accomplice approached the armed money courier as he was getting out of the armored car with a bag holding an estimated $400,000 in cash.
Sodano attacked the security guard from and ruthlessly shot the man in the jaw. But Sodano was unaware that that courier was actually a retired Florham Park police officer and as he fell his knees after being shot, he returned fire and hit Sodano in the leg according to the evidence at trial. After being struck, Sodano then fired again, this time shooting the retired police officer in his arm. As the guard laid bleeding on the ground, Sodano pulled the bag of money from underneath the courier’s body and fled in a vehicle. However, Sodano it did not make it very fair because he crashed into a light pole in front of a busy pharmacy only a few blocks away. When authorities arrived, Sodano was drifting in and out of consciousness and inside the vehicle were several other weapons, ammunition and the bag of cash. However, his accomplice fled the scene and was not immediately captured.
Sodano was convicted in federal court in Trenton of what are called Hobbs Act crimes, which involve extortion and robbery and interfere with interstate or foreign commerce. Most robbery and weapon charges are handled in the County Superior Court as indictable offenses. However, in this case the U.S. Attorneys Office took place interest in the case and prosecuted the defendant on a federal level because of the egregious circumstances and his choosing to rob an armored truck carrying federal currency with amounted to interference of commerce.