It took two tries, but when it was over one of the "Real Housewives of New Jersey" stars already headed to federal prison for bankruptcy fraud pleaded guilty Wednesday in an unrelated state case involving a bogus driver's license.
Giuseppe "Joe" Giudice accepted the state's plea deal Wednesday afternoon, hours after indicating to the judge that he would reject a deal and go to trial on charges of unlawful use of an ID and impersonation. The hearing was briefly put on hold while Giudice conferred with his lawyer.
Under terms of the plea, Giudice will serve 18 months on the unlawful use count to run concurrent with Giudice's 41-month federal sentence handed down earlier this month for bankruptcy fraud and failing to file taxes. In effect, he won't serve more time because of the plea in the ID case.
"This is the best we could have done," Giudice's attorney, Miles Feinstein, said outside the courthouse.
An Italian citizen by birth who never became a U.S. citizen, Giudice also is expected to be deported once his federal prison term ends. Giudice left court Wednesday without commenting.
Feinstein said that if convicted at trial of the original second-degree unlawful use count, Giudice would have faced a maximum 10 year sentence. Under the plea agreement, the count was reduced to a fourth-degree, or lesser, offense. He also faces a fine of up to $10,000 and will likely lose the use of his driver's license by March, Feinstein said.
Giudice will begin serving his sentence after his wife Teresa's 15-month federal sentence ends, under terms agreed to by both sides in the bankruptcy case that took into account the couple's four children.
The false identification charge in Passaic County was brought after Joe Giudice allegedly used his brother's identity to obtain a driver's license while his own license was suspended for driving while intoxicated in 2010.
In response Feinstein's questions in court Wednesday, Giudice indicated he would reject the state's plea offer and proceed to trial. But state Superior Court Judge Adam Jacobs then questioned him and noted that he wouldn't be able to change his mind and accept the plea offer later.
"Are you comfortable making that decision today?" Jacobs asked, to which Giudice fell silent.
The judge then ordered a recess for Giudice to confer with Feinstein. Plea negotiations were ongoing throughout the day, Feinstein said.
The Giudices pleaded guilty in the federal case in March, admitting they hid assets from bankruptcy creditors and submitted phony loan applications to get some $5 million in mortgages and construction loans. Joe Giudice also pleaded guilty to failing to pay taxes totaling more than $200,000. The couple also was ordered to pay restitution of more than $400,000.