New York Times: Jury Convicts Former Newark Mayor of Fraud
A federal jury today convicted the former mayor of Newark, Sharpe James, of fraud for conspiring to sell city-owned properties to a former girlfriend, who quickly flipped them and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits.
The former girlfriend of Mr. James, Tamika Riley, was also found guilty. Under federal guidelines both could face about seven or eight years in prison.
The case centered on the purchase of nine city-owned properties that Ms. Riley bought through a special program to help revitalize Newark’s struggling South Ward. She bought the parcels in three separate transactions for a total of $46,000 and then sold them for a profit of more than $600,000.
Mr. James, 72, had been charged with conspiracy and fraud. In addition to those same charges, Ms. Riley, 39, was also accused of numerous tax violations in connection with what the authorities said was her failure to file income tax returns for her public relations firm. Prosecutors also said that Ms. Riley did not report the income she earned from the sale of the properties.
James faces seven to eight years in prison, and is still to be tried on the $58,000 of the city’s money spent on personal trips to the Caribbean.
While I support the verdict, it’s hardly a proud day for Newark. I think most of us suffering from Sharpe James Fatigue just hope the next trial goes quickly so we can put this in the city’s past.
: Reaction is pouring in from around the web.
TVJersey: Sharpe James Guilty on All Counts
“For those who disgrace their public office and betray the public trust there is only one place left, and that is federal prison,” Christie said. “Sharpe James will pay for what he did to the people of Newark.”
And thus, a gubernatorial candidate is born.
Joseph Racioppi for NJ Voices: Sharpe verdict: A beginning to the end of corruption?
Sharpe James will not be the last of what we Jerseyans have become all to used to. But maybe, just maybe, this verdict will be the start of a good thing. That corrupt politicians will no longer have free reign, will no longer be rewarded, tolerated, or re-elected, and may actually go to prison.
Is this a transformation of politics across the state? Only if New Jerseyans really want it. Maybe if we vote candidates into office who have a proven record of fighting corruption and making brave choices that truly benefit their constituencies, we’ll see the machine start to crumble. Maybe if we take steps to demand accountability and transparency, we’ll start to dismantle the systems in place that protect people like Sharpe.
But if we allow complacency to continue, and vote on candidates based on rhetoric or in reaction to hot button issues, NJ will only see more of the same.
Update 2: more responses.
East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador, who testified in the trial, called it “a sad day for Newark.”
“I feel sorry for his family and I feel sorry for those who put their trust in him,” Amador said. “We as public officials deposit our souls and our hearts in the hands of the people.”
Really more a reaction from people in City Hall than an official response, and I doubt there will be. They really don’t stand to gain anything politically by doing a victory lap around this case.
Corzine and Booker weigh in:
“It’s a very sad day when a jury of citizens confirms there has been a betrayal of public trust,” Gov. Jon Corzine said after an appearance in Paramus this afternoon. “I find it sad that any of the good work produced by Mayor James will get lost or overshadowed by his conviction.”
James’ successor, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, said his “prayers are with Sharpe James and his family.”
“I hope that the citizens of Newark stay focused on the future and the great things that are happening now,” said Booker, a Democrat.
NJ Voices: Justice in Newark: Delivered…soon
Sharpe James today walked out of the courtroom a convicted felon and a marked man. But he walked out the front door and went on to do whatever he wanted for the rest of the day. I’m sure the guilty verdict put a real kink in his day, but the fact is that he has been shown to be a thief, and thiefs should leave the courthouse by the side-door to find a seat on the bus that takes them to jail.