HACKENSACK, N.J. (MCT) – "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" stars Teresa and Joe Giudice are asking a judge to grant them separate trials on a raft of federal fraud charges, arguing that to do otherwise would be unfair and hurt their defense.
In motions filed in federal court in Newark last week, Joe Giudice maintains that he has evidence of his wife's innocence, but he would not take the witness stand if they are forced to stand trial together.
Teresa Giudice, likewise, wants to testify on her own behalf, but not against her husband.
The Giudices, who live in Montville, stand accused of 41 counts alleging that between 2001 and 2011 they engaged in mail and wire fraud, bank fraud and bankruptcy fraud. Prosecutors allege they used fake pay stubs, tax returns and W-2 forms to secure nearly $5 million in mortgages and other loans, and concealed income derived from their Bravo cable television show and other business ventures after they filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Joe Giudice also is charged with failing to file tax returns for 2005-2009.
In the court papers, Joe Giudice maintains that his wife "had no knowledge of any misrepresentation" made in loan and mortgage applications or lines of credit, and that she was not aware that various properties and businesses were acquired or owned in her name.
He also said that he, his attorney and his business partner signed her name on numerous occasions without her knowledge or authorization, and that others, including bank representatives, knew that she had not signed various documents.
While such evidence is "clearly exculpatory," Giudice said he would testify only if he and his wife are granted separate trials.
At his own trial, Joe Giudice would invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, his lawyer, Miles Feinstein, said in the court filing.
If they "are tried jointly, and Mr. Giudice invokes his Fifth Amendment right, Teresa will be prejudiced," he wrote, adding that no defendant should be denied a fair trial simply because it is more convenient for the government to try multiple defendants together.
In her motion, Teresa Giudice argues that a severance is required to allow her to invoke her constitutional right to testify on her own behalf, as well as to invoke her marital privilege against testifying against her spouse.
Otherwise, "she is placed in the position of choosing to testify on her own behalf and, arguably, against her husband, or not testifying at all," her attorney, Henry Klingeman, said in the motion.
The government has not replied yet.
The Giudices, who were indicted in July, are scheduled to stand trial before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas on April 14.
If convicted, they could face lengthy prison terms, and Joe Giudice, who is an Italian citizen, could face deportation.