The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to rule on the constitutionality of a powerful tool in the fight against public corruption and the decision, which could come down at any time, could overturn the convictions of several state politicos.
Among the disgraced officials whose convictions could be effected by the high court’s ruling on the provision of the mail fraud statute known as the “right to honest services” are former Bergen county Democratic Chairman Joseph Ferriero, convicted in October, and former Democratic State Sens. Wayne Bryant (D-Camden) and Joe Coniglio (D-Paramus) both also convicted in 2009.
Dennis Oury, former counsel to the Bergen Dems, who was indicted alongside Ferriero and pleaded guilty to the charges, could also see all or part of his conviction overturned.
Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James also was convicted of depriving his constituents of honest services and served two years in prison as a result. James was released in April. It’s unclear how a high court ruling against the honest services law would effect James’ conviction.
Both Coniglio and Bryant are in prison, while Ferriero and Oury await sentencing.
The law was enacted in 1988 and has helped prosecutors charge hundreds of elected officials, lobbyists and corporate big-wigs who sought to use their positions to line their own – or someone else’s – pockets.