NEWARK – One of their daughters sobbed. Their son shouted across the courtroom. And the mayor and his wife, brought down by a bar owner accused of human trafficking, stood somber in disbelief.
Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna, who turned 50 yesterday, and his wife, Anna, 58, were convicted of extortion and filing fraudulent tax returns yesterday in federal court.
"If people are going to hold public office and violate the law, they have to be held accountable," said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie after the couple was convicted of extorting cash, gifts and campaign contributions from bar owner Luisa Medrano, and for failing to report about $30,000 in income.
The mayor and his wife were acquitted of two mail fraud counts that charged them with diverting campaign contributions. (Michelangelo Conte, Jersey Journal)
Heckuva job, Javier
Gov. Jon Corzine is sticking by Javier Inclan.
The governor, speaking through a spokeswoman, yesterday said Inclan's job as one his deputy chiefs of staff is safe, even after Inclan testified that he passed an illegal campaign contribution to Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna in 2002. Yesterday, the mayor and his wife were convicted on extortion and tax charges.
"The governor commends Javier for his effort and he believes it takes courage to testify in this trial," said Lilo Stainton, a spokeswoman for the governor. "Javier was testifying in the case for the prosecution against someone who was clearly a convicted felon." (Hack, Jersey Journal)
Hudson at its finest
GUTTENBERG – Many people in town were reluctant yesterday afternoon to give an opinion on the conviction of Mayor David Delle Donna and his wife, Anna, on extortion and tax charges, but those who did speak said they were not surprised.
The streets and bars of the four-block-wide town were largely quiet, and some residents were unaware that the "first couple" had been on trial in federal court in Newark, let alone found guilty.
Several business owners, on the other hand, said they were unwilling to talk because they could have problems getting permits and licenses, or simply because they did not want to cause any trouble.
One patron at a local tavern said he didn't want to opine because he knows the mayor's mother.
But asked if the conviction surprised him, the bartender said: "I've seen it all my life growing up. Hudson County at its best." (Paul Koepp, Jersey Journal)
And speaking of ethics
HAMILTON — A new municipal ethics board that would review actions of members of the township government is set to be introduced by ordinance at a township council meeting next week, Hamilton officials announced yesterday.
Councilman Tom Goodwin, who has taken the lead on advocating for the proposed ordinance, announced his intention to introduce the measure yesterday, calling for a bipartisan board that would help restore confidence in local government. (Ryan Tracy, Trenton Times)
The investigations continue
The state Attorney General's Office has opened a probe into the borough of Clementon, members of council and several people with ties to the fire department here, an official said.
Mayor Mark Armbruster said Tuesday that Clementon was asked about two weeks ago to send all public records, dating to 2000, to the New Jersey Attorney General's Office. Since then, several people — including the former and current borough council presidents and fire chiefs — have been asked to testify before a state grand jury, Armbruster said.
The mayor would not say what public records were requested. He also said he did not know what the investigation pertains to, but added "the borough has cooperated 100 percent." Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said office policy forbids him from confirming or denying investigations.
According to Armbruster, those subpoenaed by the Attorney General's Office include Eva Busch, the borough council president; John Busch Sr., Busch's husband and township fire chief; Randall Freiling, a lieutenant in the police department and the township's deputy fire chief; Sheila Freiling, Randall Freiling's wife and former council president; and Robert Freiling, Randall Freiling's brother. Robert Freiling is a public works employee and member of the township's fire department. (Leo Strupczewski, Courier-Post)
Lautenberg has the lead
Voters in New Jersey tend to like U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg and to approve of the job he is doing, a poll conducted from April 24-28 indicates, leaving the incumbent senator in "good position for re-election in both the primary and general election," the poll takers concluded.
Nearly half of registered voters approve of Lautenberg's performance, as opposed to 31 percent who disapprove and 21 percent who have no opinion, the Monmouth University Polling Institute survey concluded.
And Democrats approve by a wider margin, 59 to 19 percent, suggesting trouble for Rob Andrews, the South Jersey congressman who earlier this month launched a last-minute bid to displace his fellow Democrat in the June 3 primary.
Fewer than half the Democratic voters polled even knew who Andrews was. (Richard Pearsall, Courier-Post)
Wonder what that means?
U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews renewed his call Tuesday for U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg to participate in debates across the state and said he is running because New Jersey needs a senator who is actively engaged in the job.
We need a vigorous, active senator who will fight for us," Andrews said at one point. And he also discussed the senator's "level of energy" at another.
Seeking to wrest the Democratic nomination from the senator in the June primary, the South Jersey congressman referred repeatedly to the term a senator serves — six years — as an obvious if unacknowledged reminder that Lautenberg would be 90 at the end of that term if he is returned to office. (Richard Pearsall, Courier-Post)
State Democratic Chairman Joseph Cryan's decision to file an appeal to a Superior Court judges' ruling today created an opening for the campaign of U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1) to argue that U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) could not claim total victory in the courtroom.
"Has Cryan decided to appeal today’s ruling on behalf of Lautenberg?" said Andrews spokesman Michael Murphy.
He answered his own question, "Certainly."
Cryan, a Lautenberg supporter, and the Lautenberg people both deny that’s the case and say it’s more desperation from Andrews to spin a loss into an optimistic sound-bite. (Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
New Jersey voters are proving as fickle as the April weather.
Only two months after handing U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton a healthy 10-point presidential primary win over Sen. Barack Obama, the state's Democratic voters now say they prefer Obama for president by the same margin, a new Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll found.
And in a head-to-head contest, John McCain — the presumptive Republican presidential nominee — would lose to either Democrat if the election were held today. The poll found that Obama would defeat McCain by 24 percentage points, while Clinton's victory margin would be 14 points. (Bob Cullinane, Gannett)
Can the unmentionable be mentioned in court?
Divorce lawyers for former governor James E. McGreevey and his wife are arguing whether to allow lascivious testimony by a former campaign aide who claims he participated in sexual threesomes with the estranged couple.
Superior Court Judge Karen Cassidy will decide Tuesday — the same day Dina Matos McGreevey and her husband face off in divorce court in Elizabeth — whether to permit Theodore Pedersen's revealing testimony about the sexual romps that allegedly occurred between 1999 and 2001.
The court papers were released yesterday, along with excerpts from a deposition that Pedersen gave in October 2007 in which he said he thought McGreevey "might be bi(sexual)" after an incident in Atlantic City when the former governor grabbed him.
The viciously contested divorce rests largely on whether Matos McGreevey knew or did not know that her husband was gay. She claims McGreevey hid his homosexuality from her before and during the marriage. (Judith Lucas, Star-Ledger)
Logic doesn’t win
Chris Christie sought to bring logic to the debate over illegal immigration and ended up getting kicked in the face for it — figuratively.
Christie, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, spoke Sunday at a Dover church and said that simply being in the United States without documentation is not a crime. This is not a new interpretation.
It is a crime to "sneak in," or "fraudulently" enter the country, but the law can not assume that a person without documentation entered in that fashion. He could have lost that documentation; it could have been stolen. Some may see this principle as contradictory, but it really isn't. One cannot presume a criminal act; there has to be evidence that it occurred.
Curiously, Christie's comments caused quite a commotion among the anti-illegal immigration crowd. I say curiously because there was nothing new in what Christie said. He said very much the same thing — including calling Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello a grandstander — during an interview last summer with Daily Record editors. And he echoed those comments at a meeting in Mountain Lakes last fall with school officials. The grandstanding charge specifically comes from the mayor's calling some opponents of last summer's anti-illegal immigration rally in Morristown "communists." (Fred Snowflack, The Daily Record)
Young, but inexperienced?
Bayonne needs someone to fix its finances and Yitzchak David figures he's the one to do it.
David, 24, who moved to Bayonne from New York in 2002 and manages patient portfolios at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, says he intends to run for mayor in the Nov. 4 election.
He's the second declared candidate for the city's highest elective office; former Municipal Court Judge Patrick Conaghan has previously announced. Candidates have until Sept. 11 to file nominating petitions. The winner would serve out the balance of former Mayor Joseph V. Doria Jr.'s term that expires in 2010.
Although he's never sought public office before, David has some experience working with the political system: he worked on Capitol Hill as an aide to Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, and, while attending Rutgers University, he lobbied the state Legislature to eliminate cuts made to student loan programs. (Ronald Leir, Jersey Journal)
It's alive, it's alive!
This easily could have been the first reaction to the Hoboken school board results that saw a big victory for Phil DeFalco, Carmelo Garcia, and Frances Rhodes-Kearns. These are the people backed by Mayor David Roberts and who defeated the candidates supported by Michael Lenz and others.
It was as if that lifeless political body's left hand suddenly started to twitch and the cadaver sat up. It's alive! (Political Insider, Jersey Journal)
Five into three in Ridgewood
In the small, densely packed Bergen County village of Ridgewood, five candidates are competing for three council seats in the May 13th municipal elections.
Up for reelection are Deputy Mayor Betty Wiest and Councilman Jacques Harlow. Councilwoman Kim Ringler Shagin is stepping down, and three new challengers are vying for a spot on the board: political veteran Paul Aronsohn, police captain Keith Killion and community activist Anne Zusy. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)
Four into one in Cape May
CAPE MAY – Four candidates are running in the May 13 election for the City Council seat being vacated by David Craig.
Voters can choose from two newcomers to politics, including local hardware store owner Terri Swain and Clay Street resident Jeanne Powick. Or, they could choose former Councilman Jack Wichterman, who served from 2002 into 2004, or Cape May native Harry Bellangy, who ran but lost in 2004. (Richard Degener, Press of Atlantic City)
LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP – Seven candidates sought to win voters in front of a standing-room-only crowd Tuesday night in the municipal courtroom.
Three seats on the Board of Commissioners are up for grabs May 13. The three incumbents and four newcomers have been putting up signs and knocking on doors every weekend.
Tuesday evening the candidates answered questions pertaining to local issues. The questions were prepared by the Long Beach Township Taxpayers Association.
"I have put my heart and soul in to this town," said incumbent Commissioner Robert Palmer. "I think with the expertise of Robert Fleck and Sharon Stefanoni we can take this town where it needs to go." The three are running as a team.
Only one of the four newcomers to the election said he had attended a Board of Commissioners meeting in the last 12 months. That was Joe Mancini, who said he attended six meetings, watched many on television and read minutes online. (Donna Weaver, Press of Atlantic City)
Gifts that keep on giving
Robert G. Torricelli, a former United States senator from New Jersey, has contributed $1.6 million in unspent campaign money to a philanthropic foundation he has established.
In December 2007, Mr. Torricelli transferred the funds from his campaign account to the Rosemont Foundation, a nonprofit group he started last year to advance causes like cancer research and open-space preservation, his spokesman said.
The money was part of the leftover campaign funds Mr. Torricelli had after he abruptly quit his 2002 re-election race amid allegations of ethical misconduct and then became a lobbyist in New Jersey and Washington. At the time he quit the race, he had $2.9 million in unspent money in his campaign account.
Mr. Torricelli has drawn criticism since then because he has contributed some of the unspent funds to politicians who had influence over his — or his clients’ — business interests. (Raymond J. Hernandez, New York Times)