NJ judge says not a crime for politician to take bag with $10,000 cash
A bribery charge has been dismissed against an ex-state Assemblyman turned Bayonne mayoral candidate because a state Superior Court judge said he wasn’t in office at the time that he accepted an attempted bribe.
Former Democratic Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell was arrested in a 2019 anti-corruption sting, which netted both Democrats and Republicans in Hudson and Morris counties.
Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez issued her decision on Thursday, as reported by NorthJersey.com.
“We strongly disagree with the decision, which, if upheld, effectively legalizes bribing candidates for public office,” a spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General said in a written response on Monday to New Jersey 101.5.
“We do not think this is what the Legislature had in mind when drafting this law and we look forward to appealing this ruling once we receive the written opinion.”
Prosecutors previously said that O’Donnell, also a former public safety director of Bayonne, was running for mayor of Bayonne in spring 2018 when he accepted a bag stuffed with $10,000 in cash from a cooperating witness whom he agreed to appoint as a “tax guy” if elected, according to a transcript provided by the state Attorney General’s Office.
O’Donnell never reported the cash contribution to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission and he lost the May 2018 election.
A similar case and ruling also out of Hudson County involved former Assemblyman turned Jersey City mayoral candidate Lou Manzo, who was accused in 2009 of accepting roughly $30,000 in cash bribes while running for office.
Federal charges against Manzo were dismissed in 2012, based on the same premise that he was not in office at the time that he took cash payments from a developer.
With previous reporting by Sergio Bichao