More on Bob Del Tufo’s back story

During his 1976 presidential campaign against Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter pledged to appoint federal prosecutors “strictly on the basis of merit, without any consideration of political aspect or influence.” But after taking office in 1977, Carter sought the resignation of the United States Attorney for New Jersey, Jonathan Goldstein, and replaced him with Robert Del Tufo, who was serving as the Director of the state Division of Criminal Justice. The 36-year-old Goldstein was part of a trio of career federal prosecutors — he followed Frederick Lacey and Herbert Stern — named by Richard Nixon who had waged an aggressive war on public corruption and organized crime. He had sought to complete the final year of his four-year term. Goldstein accused the Carter administration of forcing him from office at the request of Harrison Williams, the Democratic U.S. Senator from New Jersey, telling the New York Times that the White House and Williams “distorted, misled, concealed and attempted to deceive the public” about their role in seeking his ouster. “I will not be silent,” Goldstein said at a news conference, declaring “purely political considerations relating to the patronage demands of Senator Williams and the failure of this Administration to fulfill its commitment to the merit selection” as the reason he was being effectively terminated. By tradition, the appointment of a U.S. Attorney goes to a U.S. Senator from the political party of the President. Republican Senator Clifford Case had sought the nominations of Lacey, Stern and Goldstein. Williams, according to published reports, had submitted a list of seven potential candidates to the White House: Del Tufo, former New Jersey Bar Association President Joseph Nolan, former Assistant U.S. Attorneys George Koelzer and Oliver Lofton, attorney Roger Lowenstein; former Deputy Attorney General Howard Rosen; and former Assistant Essex County Prosecutor (now New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice) James Zazzali. In early 1980, Williams was accused of accepting stock in a titanium mine as payment for his pledge to help an FBI agent posing as an Arab sheik obtain government contracts. Days later, the New York Times ran a story alleging that Del Tufo had recommended against the prosecution of Williams, who had been responsible for his appointment. Del Tufo denied making recommendations to the Justice Department that would aide Williams. He claimed that Williams had actually backed Nolan for the job he eventually received. When Del Tufo resigned six months later, he claimed he needed to re-enter a private law practice to pay the college education of his four children. But the New York Times said that their Justice Department sources claimed that he may have been pushed out over his disagreement with Washington over the prosecution of several key cases. Grand juries in New York, Philadelphia and Washington returned indictments, while a New Jersey grand jury had not. Abscam-related probes of former Casino Control Commission Vice Chairman Kenneth McDonald and State Senator Joseph Maressa had not advanced (Williams’s case was being prosecuted in New York), nor had a politically charged investigation of Newark Mayor Kenneth Gibson that included allegations that the Carter administration had intervened in the probe. Gibson backed Carter’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination at a time when Williams led a last-ditch effort to deny Carter the nomination by running an uncommited slate of delegates in the June primary that pledged to support California Governor Jerry Brown or former Vice President Hubert Humphrey. In Essex County, Del Tufo had failed to win a conviction against former Newark Housing and Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Robert Notte, the 1978 GOP nominee for Essex County Executive. And Del Tufo’s office was criticized when charges against former Essex County Sheriff John Cryan were dropped due to errors by the prosecution. Cryan lost his 1979 re-election bid largely as a result of his indictment.

More on Bob Del Tufo’s back story