NJ For Change

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Sharpe James Mystery

I always wondered why Newark Mayor and state Senator Sharpe James wasn’t behind bars. Today an article in the New York Times helps to shed some light on this mystery. Federal authorities couldn’t get any of James’ crooked cronies to turn on him, providing the necessary evidence needed for a conviction.
Jeffrey D. Smith, the federal prosecutor who referred to Newark City Hall as a supermarket, noted yesterday that in general, "A high percentage of these cases rely for their success on the help of a witness who was an insider and can credibly testify as to direct dealings with the target of the investigation."

Another former prosecutor, Larry R. C. Stephen, who oversaw corruption inquiries in the United States attorney's office in Newark from 1994 to 1998, said graft flourished under Mr. James's tenure.
Yet, there was nothing but silence from two former presidents of the Newark Municipal Council convicted of pocketing bribes and not a word from a Newark police director caught stealing from municipal coffers. Nothing from James’s chief of staff, Jackie R. Mattison and who is also a relative of James’ wife, who was caught with thousands hidden at the home he shared with his mistress.
For federal officials, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in trying to pursue a case against Mr. James was the unwillingness of Mr. Mattison or another close mayoral associate to cooperate. Prosecutors pressured Mr. Mattison to turn on Mr. James in return for a reduced sentence, but he would not and was convicted at trial.
The clues to the Mayor’s corruption where everywhere. James’ extensive property holdings, his $175,000 yacht, the Rolls Royce and the millions that were raised and spent by a private, unregulated group that he controlled, called the Sharpe James Civic Association. Even though most of the money was donated to the association by companies and people doing business with the Newark, the U.S. attorney's office was never able to bring an indictment against Sharpe James. James just explained it all away and the voters in Newark continued to elect him.
Mr. James and his lawyers repeatedly said that he had done nothing wrong and suggested that prosecutors were conducting a racially motivated vendetta against him. The beach house, yacht and other accouterments were the product of savvy investing, he said.
Savvy investing, ha! So far Sharpe James has played his cards well, the race card and the get out of jail free cards provided by his silent partners. I keep hoping Cory Booker will be able to uncover the evidence that will finally lead to the confiscation of the millions James’ has surely stolen from the people of New Jersey and the criminal conviction that is long overdue.

Things are begining to change in Newark and that makes me very happy!
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a great story. Waiting for more. »

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