James Indicted on dozens of counts, Corzine donated $200,000 to Devereaux’s church, McCullough apologizes over dumb joke, James’s favorite developer, Newark remembers 1967.
IS ANYBODY SURPRISED?
“Sharpe James, who for two decades reigned as the mayor and indelible face of Newark, was charged yesterday with fraudulently billing the city for lavish vacations he took with female companions and arranging for one to buy valuable municipal land at a steep discount.
In an 86-page indictment, prosecutors and the FBI portrayed James as an elected official who considered no personal expense too great or too small for his city-issued credit cards, charging everything from movie tickets and meals at McDonald's to airfare and luxury hotels in five countries.
In one instance, James billed the city for a $9,000 penthouse suite on a cruise that sailed six weeks after he left office last year, they alleged.
A federal grand jury named James, 71, who remains a state senator, in 25 counts of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud — crimes that, if proven, could send the former mayor to prison for more than seven years. One of his travel companions, a 38-year-old businesswoman named Tamika Riley, also was charged with fraud, conspiracy and tax violations……………….
"I'm innocent of all these charges and look forward to my day in court when the truth will come out," he repeated several times.” (Martin and Shearn, Star-Ledger)
“The United States attorney for New Jersey, Christopher J. Christie, said the case against Mr. James contained “stark examples of the greed and arrogance of unchecked power.”…………
The investigation, named “Operation Cornered Lot,” began three years ago, when federal agents received a telephone call from a Newark resident who said that the James administration was funneling city property to the mayor’s friends and political associates, according to Weysan Dunn, special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Newark office……..
There was also, according to the indictment, $3,500 for a trip to Martha’s Vineyard (plus $207 for an advance ferry reservation for his Rolls-Royce); $167.22 at clubs in Rio de Janeiro’s red-light district; $297 to inspect a yacht he wanted to buy in Maryland; and $2,989 for a penthouse suite on a cruise that began six weeks after he left City Hall.
He also ran up more than $1,600 in frequent trips to Applebee’s restaurants and movie theaters outside Newark — and resulting in a $39 fine for exceeding the credit limit on the city card.” (Kochieniewski, New York Times)
"To end his service career in the shame these charges represent is just another sad day for the people of this city," Christie said outside the Newark federal courthouse. He later added, "He was supposed to be their protector. He was supposed to be their champion. All he protected was his own wallet." (Tamari, Gannett)
"Take a minute to think about that," state Attorney General Anne Milgram said Thursday after a grand jury in Newark returned a 33-count indictment against a man once considered one of the state's most powerful Democrats. "Sharpe James was not even willing to pay $10 out of his own pocket to go to the movies." (Sampson, Bergen Record)
CORZINE MUST BE A RELIGIOUS MAN
“Gov. Jon Corzine donated $200,000 to the development arm of St. James AME Church in Newark, which was later the subject of a criminal investigation, the governor's office confirmed yesterday.
The revelation was made last night in response to questions raised in the criminal trial of a former high-ranking state commerce commission official. Lesly Devereaux, who served as chief of staff to the Rev. William Watley, the church's pastor, when he was state commerce secretary, is on trial on state corruption charges.
Devereaux's defense attorney, Jack Furlong, contends Corzine's donation was intended to fund a job for her at the development agency. Furlong wanted the governor to testify about the donation, to counter the prosecution's assertion that Devereaux resigned from the commission in June 2004 to stall a criminal investigation
Lilo Stainton, spokeswoman for Corzine, said while he was a U.S. senator Corzine wired $200,000 to the St. James Development Corp. on May 11, 2004, for community outreach. She denied Corzine knew it was for Devereaux, if indeed that was the case.”
"We have no information of it being connected to any job for Lesly Devereaux at all," Stainton said. "There is a suggestion that somehow the governor has done something wrong here. Charitable contributions are not a crime." (Hepp, Star-Ledger)
FOOT MEETS MOUTH
“State Sen. James “Sonny” McCullough is learning the hard way that jokes from another era with ethnic punch lines tend to punch back in today's political campaigns.
Democrats on Thursday jumped all over McCullough, R-Atlantic — who is running for his first full term in the state Senate — after he told a reporter from a political Web site a joke about an Asian couple with a black baby.
The reporter, Max Pizarro of politicsnj.com, told The Press of Atlantic City that he and McCullough were outside a Chinese restaurant earlier this week when the senator broke into a story about how he ran into an Asian couple at the mall whom he had married a year earlier as Egg Harbor Township mayor. As Pizarro relayed the joke, the couple pushed a stroller carrying a black baby, McCullough asked the baby's name and the mother replied, “Sum Ting Wong” (“something wrong”.)”
In a phone interview Thursday afternoon, McCullough confirmed that he told the joke, but said it was not meant as an insult to any race.
“It was not an ethnic slur,” McCullough said. “It was never said in a slanderous way toward African-Americans or the Chinese. If they took it that way, I certainly would apologize. I never took it that way…………….”
In a district with a diverse ethnic population — students at one Atlantic City school speak 36 different languages — McCullough's joke would appear to be at least embarrassing and potentially politically damaging. McCullough's campaign appeared to recognize as much when they put out a statement hours later with a decidedly different tone. (McAleer, Press of Atlantic City)
THE STENCH OF CORRUPTION
“He would go to a park and if people were playing soccer he’d take off his suit and get in on the game, if we went to a Latino party he would dance the meringue, he’d talk baseball with anyone in a diner, he was a big Jackie Robinson fan.
But there was another side to the fit and flamboyant Sharpe James, who served as Newark’s mayor for 21 years, and it took a battery of federal law enforcement officials led by U.S. Attorney Chris Christie to unravel it all out into the daylight Thursday afternoon in Newark……………..
When strongmen fall, the people in some countries run into the streets and celebrate, and true to Christie’s words, there was no champagne spraying on Broad Street today, no sense that the king was dead or wounded, though James stood in a federal courtroom downtown with arms unbent and hands cuffed.
The sadness of the city’s poor spoke on Broad Street………….
But some people see James as a hero, a voice cried from the press row.
Christie was incredulous.
"Sharpe James a hero?" he answered. "He flew to Pompano, Fl., to shop for a Rolls Royce for himself with taxpayer money.” (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)
A DARK DAY FOR NEWARK
“Forty years ago yesterday, the Newark riots scarred the city forever. On the same day in 1995, the state took over Newark's public schools. And yesterday, Sharpe James, Newark's longest-serving mayor, was indicted on 33 counts of conspiracy and fraud stemming from his travels and the sale of city-owned land.
"The 12th of July is a bad day for Newark," said James' one-time political ally and neighbor Carl Sharif as he stood outside his Wilbur Avenue home.
"The riots, the school takeover, and now this," said Sharif, now a top adviser to Mayor Cory Booker.
Across the city yesterday, James' indictment was viewed as another blemish on a city that has seen its share of problems.” (Mays, Star-Ledger)
JAMES’S SPECIAL FRIEND
“Tamika Riley, a woman with a flair for fashion and an appetite for finery, appeared to be flat broke.
Her Newark clothing boutique had gone belly up. She needed public assistance to help pay the rent on her Jersey City apartment. She wanted a Mercedes, but her credit was so bad a friend had to sign the lease for her.
Then, in the late 1990s, she met Newark Mayor Sharpe James, and her fortunes turned. Riley, whose diverse resume included experience as a flight attendant, a UPS manager and a publicist, soon had a lucrative new sideline.
Yesterday, federal authorities said Riley's real estate dealings with the city of Newark were at the heart of a fraud carried out with James, with whom she shared a "close personal relationship."
Between 2000 and 2005, Riley bought nine city-owned properties at fire-sale prices totaling $46,000, then quickly sold the lots for nearly $700,000, according to the 86-page indictment.” (Mueller and Coscarelli, Star-Ledger)
MORAN ON JAMES
“Mayor Sharpe James stepped into the courtroom carefully yesterday because his legs were in irons.
When he sat at the defense table, he put his hands on his lap, hiding his handcuffs from the overflow crowd that could hardly believe what they were witnessing.
At that moment, you had to wonder if James was wishing he had kept a lower profile in his glory days, when he was mayor of Newark and master of his political universe.
Maybe it was a mistake to buy that Rolls Royce. Maybe the 54-foot yacht was a bit over the top, too. And that second home he once bought at the Shore.
Because for a guy who never worked in the private sector, a guy who has always relied on the kindness of taxpayers, those luxuries are hard to explain.” (Moran, Star-Ledger)
FOOD TASTES BETTER WHEN IT’S FREE
“Yesterday's 33-count indictment of former Newark Mayor Sharpe James showed off the flamboyant politician's extravagant taste for Jaguar convertibles, luxury hotels and excursions to tropical locales.
But it also illustrated his love of the traditional dinner and movie, and one his favorite spots was the entertainment complex in Secaucus.
The feds said yesterday that James used his city-issued credit cards eight times to check out movies at the Loews Theater in Secaucus, along with dinners at the nearby Outback Steakhouse and Houlihan's.
James used his city-issued plastic to ring up $384.35 worth of questionable charges at the Secaucus entertainment complex, typically spending roughly $22 at the movies and $60 for dinner.” (Renshaw, Jersey Journal)
A STARK REMINDER
“One by one their names were read.
James Sanders and Tedock Bell were shot and killed after being caught looting. Mary Helen Campbell was killed when a fire engine struck her car. Jessie Mae Jones was killed when a bullet struck her in the head as she sat on the front stoop of her house.
As each name was read, a bell chimed to honor those who died 40 years ago during a five-day uprising that took 26 lives, caused more than $10 million in damages, and forever changed Newark.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Newark riots, community activists, long-time residents and local elected officials gathered yesterday outside Newark's 4th Police Precinct — the flashpoint of the disturbance.
With family members of victims at his side, Mayor Cory Booker unveiled a design for a plaque to be placed on the exterior wall of the precinct, marking it as the epicenter of an important moment in this city's history.” (Addison, Star-Ledger)
HILLARY IN JERSEY CITY
“Hillary is coming to Hudson County.
U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign confirmed yesterday that the front-running Democratic presidential candidate will hold a fund-raiser at the Newport Financial Center in Jersey City on July 30.
The event hosts are Downtown Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop and Jamie Lefrak, managing director of the LeFrak Organization, the builders of Newport.
"There is no question that she (Clinton) is the most able and capable and experienced presidential candidate that's competing for the job," said Lefrak, who has met the New York senator twice before and has contributed to her campaigns.”……………..
As an Iraq War vet, Fulop said he backs Clinton because of foreign policy experience. "I agree with her positions," said Fulop, a $2,300 donor to the Clinton campaign. "She has the experience to do a terrific job." (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)
STANLEY GETS HIS RECOUNT
“A recount of ballots cast in the June Democratic primary races for the 28th Legislative District and a Bloomfield council seat will be held on July 31.
Judge Patricia Costello signed a consent decree yesterday giving election officials permission to move forward with the recount. Assemblyman Craig Stanley, who is trailing newcomer Cleopatra Tucker by 127 votes, requested it more than a month ago.” (Star-Ledger)
DRUMTHWACKET NEEDS A COLOR CODED ALERT SYSTEM
“A bomb threat against Gov. Jon Corzine's official residence in Princeton on Wednesday evening turned out to be bogus, officials said yesterday.
"There was a nonspecific threat against the governor's residence," State Police Sgt. Jeanne Hengemuhle said. "Precautionary actions were taken.
The mansion, known as Drumthwacket, was not evacuated and no search of the grounds was conducted, Hengemuhle said, contradicting earlier reports from the governor's office. She refused to further characterize the threat, its origin or the precautions being taken." (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
“As the developers of a stalled project to replace dumps in the Meadowlands with golf courses and luxury housing scramble to find new financial backing, the Corzine administration is looking for ways to keep the venture afloat with or without the current company.
Gov. Jon Corzine said yesterday he wants to avoid a collapse of the ambitious EnCap redevelopment project, but also does not want to put more public money at risk.
"We're all better off if it's not in bankruptcy, but we're not going to prejudice the financial position of the state and therefore our citizens and taxpayers," Corzine said at a news conference at the governor's mansion.
Corzine's comments came amid revelations of "significant" financial problems for EnCap, the North Carolina firm chosen seven years ago to clean up six abandoned landfills in the Meadowlands and build golf courses, a conference center and homes atop them.” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)
"In the financial world, some borrowers are so big that their banks cannot afford to let them fail. The same seems to be true in New Jersey government.
For years, state legislators have relied on big developers to revive the Meadowlands, an area that was long viewed as little more than a convenient dump site. Yet when these developers underestimated the cost of completing their grand plans and ran into financial trouble, state officials were reluctant to pull the plug on their projects.
This story is unfolding once again, this time with EnCap Golf Holdings, a division of Cherokee Investment Partners, a company based in North Carolina that describes itself as the largest private equity fund in the world specializing in the remediation and redevelopment of brownfields. The company promised years ago to clean several landfills in the Meadowlands and convert the sprawling tract into golf courses and bedroom communities, a project once estimated to reach $1 billion.
But when the cleanup costs rocketed, the state, eager to see the project completed, provided $212 million in loans to help EnCap finish the job. That decision, made in 2005, now haunts the state.
Yet the state has also extended deadlines in hopes that EnCap will right itself. The alternative — shutting down EnCap, fighting it out in bankruptcy court and exposing legislators to the blame for putting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money in jeopardy — is too painful to consider…………..
In effect, the EnCap project has become too big to fail.” (Belson, New York Times)
“A lawyer for three state troopers who filed discrimination lawsuit has asked the federal judge who is overseeing a consent decree for the State Police to allow the public to see evidence that she claims shows that the Attorney General's Office is not doing its job as watchdog for the State Police.
"I want to present it to the committee, but even more than that, I'm going to federal court to allow the documents into the pub lic domain," said Nina Rossi, a lawyer for troopers Kenneth Johnson, Stanley Molnar and John Villamil.
The Advisory Committee on Police Conduct appointed by the governor is studying whether the State Police should be released from the federal consent degree aimed at eradicating the practice of racial profiling.” (Stein, Trenton Times)
MCCULLOUGH MIGHT WANT TO VOLUNTEER HIS SERVICES
“Asian-Americans are being turned away from election polls, they are being made fun of at polling sites, and they face language barriers that make it nearly impossible to access legal services.
These are some of the issues facing the growing Asian-American population that civil rights attorney Glenn Magpantay fights daily.
“"Increasingly Asian-Americans are participating in the political process but they face many barriers to vote," Magpantay said.”
He is one of the attorneys working for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which opened its doors in Newark yesterday to assist Asian-American citizens with legal services.
The civil rights organization opened the office at 89 Market St. in response to the growing Asian-American population in the state. Currently the Asian-American population reached over a 600,000, a 29 percent increase from 2000 U.S. Census Bureau estimates.” (Durando, Star-Ledger)
“NOT IN A LADYLIKE MANNER”
“Miss New Jersey will be able to keep her crown despite photos she admits show her acting "not in a ladylike manner," pageant officials said Thursday.
Hours after a nervous Amy Polumbo went public with photos of herself that had been sent anonymously to pageant officials, board members decided the pictures did not merit stripping her of her title.
"I'm very happy about this decision, and I look forward to resuming my agenda as Miss New Jersey," said a smiling Polumbo, who blew kisses to audience members after the announcement. "It was absolutely relieving. I feel like I've been crowned again."……….
The 22-year-old blonde, who hopes to act on Broadway and won the only two pageants she ever entered, said the episode had taught her a valuable lesson.
"Nothing you post on the Internet is private," she said. "You have to be careful because there are people out there who will ruin your reputation.”………….
The pictures include one showing what Polumbo said was her boyfriend apparently biting her breast through her shirt, another of Polumbo in a limousine wearing jeans with her legs spread in the air and another of her in what appears to be a Halloween costume dress holding two small pumpkins up to her breasts. (Parry, AP)
ANDREWS ON MENTAL HEALTH
“House lawmakers for more than a decade have sponsored legislation that would require private health plans to cover treatments for mental illnesses and substance addictions, but their latest bill, despite sweeping bipartisan support, once again has run into buzz-saw opposition from business lawyers and employer groups.
"It's my view that we do need a strong and well thought-out federal standard to guarantee mental health parity," U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews, D-1st Dist., said when he conducted a press conference and a hearing this week with former First Lady Rosalyn Carter and U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy to drum up support for the House legislation.” (Cahir, Gloucester County Times)
NEW JERSEY SENATORS WANT QADDAFI TO PAY UP
“Four Democratic senators from New Jersey and New York on Thursday say they plan to block the confirmation of an American ambassador to Libya until strongman Muammar Qaddafi pays all agreed-upon damages to family members surviving the victims of Pan Am Flight 103.
President Bush has announced his intent to nominate Gene Kretz, a diplomat currently serving at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, to become the first U.S. ambassador to Libya since 1972. Libya has improved its ties to the United States by renouncing its program to develop weapons of mass destruction.
However, the Qaddafi government in Tripoli has not fully paid $2.7 billion to the relatives of the 270 people killed on Dec. 21, 1988, when a Libyan bomb brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 people aboard the plane and 11 people on the ground.” (Cahir, Gloucester County Times)
“Prosecutors can use evidence seized from a suspect who ran away from police even if officers did not have a valid reason for stopping him in the first place, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
The court found that the initial stop of an Elizabeth man suspected by the police of dealing drugs might have been unconstitutional, but he committed a crime when he shoved an officer and ran away. In a 6-0 decision, the court said that because the man fled, police could charge him with illegal possession of a gun that was found on him when he was caught.” (Coscarelli, Star-Ledger)
“Two top-level officials left the Highlands Council this week.
Steve Balzano, the council's science director, no longer worked for the council as of Monday. Council officials did not give a reason for his departure………….
Patty Sly, the council's governmental affairs and operations director, announced her resignation Thursday. She will be the executive director of the Jersey Battered Women's Service.” (Olanoff, Express-Times)
“Bergen County freeholders distributed $12.5 million in open space funds Wednesday night, scaling back an earlier award that was generous beyond the available money.
The allocation granted hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to open space acquisition and the preservation of historic properties countywide. It also funded municipal requests to resurface tennis courts, add lighting and build skate parks.
But Wednesday's list of awards was less generous than what the freeholders promised in April, when they unilaterally placed items in the open space gift basket that had not been vetted by the county's Open Space Trust Fund Public Advisory Committee.” (Carmiel, Bergen Record)
“Jury deliberations will continue today in the trial of a Deptford police officer accused of beating a young Philadelphia man following a traffic stop.
Suspended Patrolman John Gillespie is accused of official misconduct and aggravated assault for allegedly beating Joseph Rao, now 20, in February 2006. If convicted on all counts, Gillespie faces up to 15 years in a state prison.”…………
The question of credibility is a key issue for the jury. Both the prosecution and defense stressed that during closing arguments Thursday morning.
"They all lied," Senior Assistant Prosecutor Paul Colangelo told the jury, referring to the testimony of Gillespie and suspended officer Timothy Parks, who also is charged in the incident but has not been tried yet. "They all misrepresented, they all lied."
Defense attorney Ronald Helmer told jurors that Rao, whom he characterized as a cop-hating troublemaker from South Philadelphia, lied to the jury and during the investigation. He said Rao is trying to win a $1 million civil lawsuit he filed against Deptford Township.
"He's familiar with litigation," Helmer said of Rao. "He knows he's on camera, and he's hamming it up."(Huelsman, Courier-Post)
IN SEASIDE PARK
“SEASIDE PARK — A former West New York officer who broke open the biggest police corruption scandal in state history has told the Borough Council he wants to help reform the Police Department here.
"Excessive-force complaints are extremely rare occurrences," Richard G. Rivera, now of the People's Organization for Progress in Newark, told the council Wednesday night. "Even more rare are lawsuits from excessive-force complaints.
Rivera was referring to 13 excessive force lawsuits that have been filed against police. The borough's insurance carrier has settled five of the lawsuits for $1.5 million. The borough has made no admission of wrongdoing. " (Michels, Asbury Park Press)
“A month's sick leave will become retirement for the city's top law enforcement officer.
Police Chief Ronald J. Harvey told The Daily Journal Thursday he has decided to retire and it will probably be effective "almost immediately."
Harvey's departure comes at a time of turmoil at the department, due to an investigation into allegations of harassment and mistreatment of a gay police officer. No details of the probe have been released………….
"You are always a target," Harvey said of being chief here. "It's just not worth it. I think the police department has served the citizens of Millville well and it's only going to grow."” (Smith, Daily Journal)
IN UNION CITY
“Union City must pay a former city worker more than $36,000 and give him his job back, a judge has ruled.
State Administrative Law Judge Imre Karaszegi ruled that the city must pay Justo Delgado two years salary dating to July 2005, when he was fired. Delgado, who earned $17,900 annually as a Department of Public Works laborer, had been dismissed for "inability to perform duties, chronic and excessive absenteeism, neglect of duty and insubordination," Union City said in a 2005 letter to Delgado.” (Hack, Jersey Journal)
“One of four crumbling boats owned by former Mayor Wesley K. Bell has been removed from a Beach Haven West lagoon, but the process is not going fast enough for the state Attorney General's Office.
On July 9, Deputy Attorney General James T. Hill Jr. filed a motion seeking to bring Bell back to court, saying he failed to comply with a June 21 order issued by Superior Court Judge John A. Peterson…………
Bell was ordered to remove the boats from a lagoon between Julia and Steven drives after a five-day trial in April and May. Hill began prosecuting Bell in 2005 over the boats, which rest in various stages of disrepair.” (Pais, Asbury Park Press)
“Cumberland County Freeholder Jeff Trout has dropped a proposal to study distributing farmland preservation money for historical preservation purposes, due to an outcry from the local farming community.
Trout planned to propose a resolution at Thursday's meeting to create an advisory committee to study the merits of a program that would take a fraction of the farmland preservation program and direct it to preserve historic properties.” (Landua, Daily Journal)