Indictments were returned against four former New Jersey public officials and political candidates accused of taking bribes in a major corruption probe in Hudson and Morris counties, authorities announced Tuesday.
Former Jersey City School Board President Sudhan Thomas, former state Assemblyman and Bayonne mayoral candidate Jason O’Donnell, former Morris County Freeholder John Cesaro and former Mount Arlington Council Member John Windish are charged in separate indictments with pocketing thousands of dollars in bribes from a campaign contributor.
A fifth defendant, former Morris County freeholder candidate Mary Dougherty, is named in a criminal complaint, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.
Grewal called the crimes “old-school political corruption at its worst, the kind that erodes public faith in government.”
In exchange for paper bags and envelopes filled with cash, he said, the individual defendants all promised to use their influence to steer “lucrative government legal work” to the contributor, a tax lawyer who’s working with the state.
There were also checks written to their campaigns “in amounts that complied with the legal limit on individual donations” by various straw donors recruited by the tax attorney for that purpose, he said.
Thomas, 45, Cesaro and O’Donnel, both 49, Windish, 68, and Dougherty, 60, are all charged with bribery in official and political matters, among other counts, the attorney general said Tuesday.
The investigation conducted by Grewal’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) produced separate indictments on Jan. 20, Jan. 27, and Feb. 3, he said.
Deputy Attorneys General John A. Nicodemo, Trevor Taniguchi and Eric Cohen are prosecuting the defendants.
Office of Public Integrity and Accountability Chief of Staff Pearl Minato, former Deputy Attorney General Anthony Robinson and former OPIA Deputy Chief Jeffrey Manis are assisting.
Grewal commended all of the prosecutors and detectives who conducted and supervised the investigations.
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