Last Friday, Bloomfield mayoral candidate Joseph Lopez released a statement blasting the team of incumbent Mayor Michael Venezia for a statement made by a Venezia spokesman claiming that assault charges filed against Lopez after an altercation with Bloomfield resident Daniel Chalet (relative of indicted councilman Eli Chalet) following a January city council meeting were still pending. According to Lopez, those charges have been dismissed and, therefore, should not be fodder for statements made during the primary race.
PolitickerNJ was able to confirm from the Essex County Prosecutor’s office that the charges were, in fact, dismissed on April 16, 2016. According to Katherine Carter, spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the charges were dismissed because “the decision was made that the evidence was insufficient.”
According to Daniel Chalet, however, the evidence was only insufficient because of a technicality. PolitickerNJ spoke with Chalet. He claimed that the notice for him to appear was sent to the wrong address and that, because of that, he has scheduled a meeting with the prosecutor’s office on Wednesday to reopen the case.
“I am refiling them. They put my address wrong on the paperwork that was coming to my house so I was never notified that I had to go to court,” Chalet said. “The case is getting opened back up.”
According to Chalet, he is going to the prosecutor’s office on Wednesday morning in order to pursue the currently dismissed charges.
“It is important because, first of all, a councilman is not going to assault somebody and get away with it,” Chalet said. “I am going to go to the fullest extent of the law. A guy like that shouldn’t be running for mayor.”
Lopez’s attorney Michael Calabro said that he believes it is unlikely that Chalet refiling the charges will have any impact on the charges getting dismissed.
“There is no change. The prosecutor made a determination based on the defenses we proffered and the videotape that we watched,” Calabro said. “Mr. Chalet just isn’t going to be able to add anything to that. There is nothing else. I just think this whole this was done in retaliation.”
According to Calabro, while there is a legitimate claim for Chalet to talk to the prosecutor’s office based on the failure to receive appropriate notice, it is his legal opinion that the charges will again be dismissed.
“If that is the case he has the opportunity to go in and try to convince the prosecutor his determination was wrong, but there is no change,” Calabro said. “He can say what he wants but the video speaks for itself. He was the aggressor.”
Despite the fact that the charges are likely to resurface, Lopez is standing by the following statement issued on May 20: “I demand an apology from Mike Venezia. The charges against me were dismissed because the court realized they were frivolous and that I was protecting my family against the goon like actions of certain members of the Chalet family who Venezia embraces as an important part of his campaign team. Venezia was aware that the charges against me were dismissed but in view of the fact that his campaign is not going well and he has come to the sobering realization that the voters are rejecting him, he chose to lie in a desperate attempt to discredit me. Once again, Mike Venezia practices deception in the hopes that voters don’t find out that he bullies town employees, has created a culture of corruption in Town Hall, wastes tax dollars at every turn, takes credit for the efforts of others and advocates a traffic ticket quota program designed to balance the budget on the backs of the citizens in the south end of town – those who can least afford it.”
Team Venezia spokesman Phil Swibinski issued the following statement in response to Lopez’s call for an apology: “Joe Lopez’s legal issues are between him, Mr. Chalet and the Prosecutor’s Office and they will play out in the court system. This election is about which candidates can be trusted to move Bloomfield forward, and Team Venezia is remaining focused on driving home that message, identifying voters and preparing for Election Day.”
Venezia will face off against Lopez during the June 7 primary.
The following video was released by Lopez’s campaign featuring surveillance footage of the event and the 911 recording of the incident: