Former Newark New Jersey Mayor billed the city for porn movies and body lotions

MJMANDALAY

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Jan 26, 2005
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New allegations surface in corruption case against Sharpe James

Thursday December 13, 2007


Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James billed the city for pornographic movies and body lotions while staying at a Miami hotel, prosecutors allege, according to documents recently filed in federal court.

The disclosures shed new light on how the government may be planning to prove its case against James, who was indicted on corruption charges last July after 20 years as mayor of the state's largest city.

The government also alleges that James:

- Chose which developers could buy property in Newark, rewarded those who gave him tickets to sporting events and "swapped" city land with a developer who steered property outside city limits to his son.

- Used City Hall for a "yacht club" where powerful people were escorted in for meetings and parties by city police officers who used police vehicles while mayoral secretaries acted as "servers."

- Gave a no-show job to a 32-year-old man who subsequently was arrested on drug charges this year.

Alan Zegas, one of James' attorneys, said the new allegations were unfounded and served only to appeal to the "prurient sense of the masses."

"What the heck does it matter if he watched an adult movie or 'Citizen Kane'? It just creates this salacious environment and serves no other purpose than to contaminate an already contaminated atmosphere," Zegas said. "It's one thing to make a specific allegation. It's another thing, through innuendo, to defile a person's reputation."

Prosecutors described the allegations in a Nov. 17 letter they sent privately to the defense. They did so to comply with U.S. District Judge William Martini's order to notify James of evidence they may seek to introduce at trial regarding alleged crimes or other wrongful acts not included in the 25-count indictment.

James, a state senator who served as mayor for two decades, stands trial in February on charges that he bilked the city for thousands of dollars in personal travel and vacations and steered lucrative city land deals to Tamika Riley, a frequent travel companion. James and Riley, his co-defendant, deny the charges.
 

MJMANDALAY

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James' trial may be split into two
Judge says relationships could confuse the jury
Thursday, December 20, 2007

A federal judge yesterday proposed splitting the corruption case against former Newark Mayor Sharpe James into two trials, gutting from the first any reference to allegations that James billed the city for scores of personal meals, trips and lavish vacations with female companions.

U.S. District Judge William Martini said the parade of witnesses and mounds of evidence necessary to detail James' spending habits could overwhelm jurors and extend a trial already expected to last as long as five months.

The judge also said he was wary of forcing jurors to untangle James' relationships with seven women who have not been publicly identified or charged. He said their relationships might not prove relevant to the alleged crimes.

"I don't want this to be a sex trial," Martini said during a hearing in Newark. "The inferences of all these other relationships can confuse (jurors) from what this case is really about."

Instead, the judge suggested James be tried on what he called "the heart of the case," charges that the ex-mayor illegally arranged for one friend, Tamika Riley, to buy city land at a substantial discount and resell it for nearly $700,000 in profits.

Martini's willingness to split up the charges elated the defense attorneys, who repeatedly argued that the case had been poisoned with salacious and unnecessary suggestions about the private life of the 71-year-old married ex-mayor.

"Anything, to us, that focuses the case is helpful," a smiling Alan Zegas, one of James' two attorneys, said after the hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Judith Germano, the lead prosecutor, told the judge that the government opposed severing the case but that she would draft a revised indictment for him to consider. She declined to comment after the hearing on how the ruling might alter the prosecution strategy, as did a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie.

The decision leaves them with the prospect of rewriting a trial script that they spent nearly three years building and one that they hoped jurors could easily absorb.

Martini, who first proposed pruning the case during a private meeting with attorneys in his chambers last week, said he would finalize his decision next month, after prosecutors give him a revised indictment without the allegations related to James' expenses. But he said there was "a reasonable chance" that he would sever the case and start the first trial as planned in February.

The judge's announcement came at the end of a two-hour hearing that until that point had been unfolding in the government's favor. Martini swiftly denied nearly a dozen routine requests by the defendants, including pleas to dismiss the case entirely, suppress some witness statements or force prosecutors to disclose more information about their grand jury witnesses.

The attorneys for Riley and James also sought to have them tried separately. Both have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

The 33-count indictment returned in July portrayed the mayor as so powerful and brazen that he engineered land deals for friends and billed the city for everything from movie tickets to fast-food meals and nine-day cruises.

Instead, prosecutors will be limited to proving James' improper influence in nine complex land sales between the city and Riley, a 38-year-old publicist and entrepreneur, from 2001 to 2005.

The judge also told prosecutors to remove from the indictment what he found to be inflammatory language that could prejudice jurors -- including the words "companion" and "red-light district" and references to Riley's "failed" clothing business and to "flipping" properties for a quick profit.

And he said he would probably not allow the government to introduce evidence that the mayor's bill from one trip to Miami included charges for hotel movies and body lotions.

"It would not be terribly relevant," the judge said.

James, who stepped down in 2006 after five terms as Newark's mayor, said nothing during the hearing, sitting quietly at the defense table alongside Zegas and attorney Thomas Ashley. Two seats away, Riley was also silent.

The only other defendant in the case, Riley once was a key witness in the FBI and IRS investigation, giving statements to agents long before the indictment.

When Riley decided not to cooperate, prosecutors charged her with benefiting in the land deal, tax evasion and another fraud: They say she lied about her income to qualify for public housing assistance in Jersey City.

Riley's defense attorney, Gerald Krovatin, drew a stern rebuke when he suggested that prosecutors might unfairly prejudice jurors against Riley by including the housing fraud charges in the indictment.

"There's also a racial tinge to it, your honor," Krovatin said.

Like James, Riley is black.

"Forget the racial stuff here!" the judge fired back, warning all the attorneys not to introduce race into the case without first advising him. "Don't even suggest it unless you have a good basis to do it."
 

Turfmower

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Jan 17, 2005
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Ex-Newark, NJ, mayor to face 2 trials

Its about time.

[media]http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080108/ap_on_re_us/ex_mayor_indicted;_ylt=AvTxNzjEfqStnb7LWBd3achvzwcF[/media]


NEWARK, N.J. - Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James will face two separate trials stemming from a federal corruption investigation, a judge ruled Tuesday. James, 71, is accused of having used city-issued credit cards to pay for $58,000 worth of personal trips and expenses while he was mayor. He is also accused of having arranged the sale of nine city-owned properties at discounted rates to an alleged female companion, Tamika Riley.

He will face trial alone on improper credit card charges, and will be tried separately on land fraud charges with Riley, a 38-year-old businesswoman.

James and Riley have pleaded not guilty to all charges and are free on bail. James' first trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 26, though it hadn't been determined which charges would be tried first.

James and Riley declined to comment after the Tuesday hearing.

James' attorney, Thomas Ashley, said Martini's decision would streamline what would have been a complicated case, and could prevent jurors from hearing prejudicial information.

"It gives James a better chance to get a fair trial," he said.

Gerald Krovatin, an attorney for Riley, said severing the charges would help his client.

Prosecutors had objected to holding separate trials.

James was mayor of New Jersey's largest city from 1986 to 2006. His term as a Democratic state senator ended Jan. 1
 

MJMANDALAY

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Jan 26, 2005
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UPDATE

Sharpe James' corruption case split


In a move that elated Sharpe James' defense team, a federal judge today split the corruption case against the former Newark mayor into two separate trials: one involving land fraud and the other allegations that James billed the city for personal meals, trips and lavish vacations with female companions.

U.S. District Judge William Martini said the move was necessary so jurors considering the land fraud allegations would not be unfairly influenced by the charges against James involving his alleged use of city credit cards.

"I think there is some real risk of the jury being able to compartmentalize," Martini said during a hearing in federal court this morning.

Martini also said the "logical way to proceed" would be to first try James on charges that the ex-mayor illegally arranged for one friend, Tamika Riley, to buy city land at a substantial discount and resell it for nearly $700,000 in profits. Riley is James' co-defendant in the case. He also moved the trial date back from Feb. 4 to Feb. 26 in response to repeated requests by the defense for more time to prepare.

Martini also severed charges against Riley that she lied about her income to qualify for public housing assistance in Jersey City. At the request of her attorney, Gerald Krovatin, the judge ruled Riley will face a separate trial on those charges.

The judge split the case over the objections of federal prosecutors. Assistant U.S. Attorney Judith Germano has argued that prosecutors have the right to choose which trial will go first and she plans to file a brief by tomorrow stating the government's preference. Defense attorneys say the judge has sole authority to manage the trial schedule. Germano declined to comment to reporters afterwards.

Later, U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said in a statement, "We are confident in our indictment and we look forward to presenting the evidence to a fair and impartial jury as soon as possible."

Defense attorneys, who have long argued that the case has been poisoned with salacious and unnecessary suggestions about the private life of the 71-year-old married ex-mayor, said the ruling would improve James' chances of getting a fair trial.

"We are happy with the decision," said Alan Zegas, an attorney for James. "It makes the case far more manageable and eliminates potentially highly-inflammatory innuendo bearing no relation to the allegations of the indictment."

The defense team also said the ruling would make the case more manageable. The initial trial was expected to last four months, but they said the land fraud trial alone would probably last four to six weeks.