N.J. Attorney General charges five in “old-school” bribery case including former Assemblyman

TRENTON, N.J. – The incumbent Jersey City School Board and a former Assemblyman stand accused of accepting bribes according to a Thursday morning announcement from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

According to the AG press release…

“The five defendants are charged with taking thousands of dollars in bribes from a cooperating witness in the form of campaign contributions. In return, the defendants allegedly promised the cooperating witness, who is a tax attorney, that they would vote or use their official authority or influence to hire or continue to hire his law firm for lucrative government legal work. Envelopes and paper bags filled with cash – and even a coffee cup stuffed with cash – were delivered to the defendants by the cooperating witness at restaurants, parking lots, a political fundraiser, and a campaign headquarters. Other times the cooperating witness offered checks from illegal “straw donors” – individuals reimbursed to write checks to the defendant’s campaign in amounts that complied with the legal limit on individual donations.”

The five defendants are Jersey City School Board President Sudhan Thomas, former State Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, former Morris County Freeholder John Cesaro, former Mount Arlington Council Member John Windish, and former Morris County Freeholder Candidate Mary Dougherty.

“We allege that these political candidates were all too willing to sell the authority of their public office or the office they sought in exchange for an envelope filled with cash or illegal checks from straw donors,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. “This is old-school political corruption at its worst— the kind that undermines the political process and erodes public faith in government. We are working through the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability to create a culture of accountability in New Jersey, where public officials know they must act with integrity or else face the consequences.”

The allegations contain brazen incidents of corrupt behavior even by New Jersey standards. For example, on one alleged occasion, “Dougherty accepted $10,000 cash in $100 denominations that the cooperating witness delivered in a take-out coffee cup.”

Click here for the full press release.