Book ‘Jersey Sting’ On Christie Probes Raises Questions

By Andrew Kreig / Director's Blog

The Jersey Sting is a new book about a major federal corruption case that helped former New Jersey U.S. Attorney Chris Christie win his state’s governorship in 2009.

Readers here know that our Justice Integrity Project has documented in multiple columns the unfairness of the controversial 46-defendant case initiated by the Republican Christie. Prosecutions, primarily resulting in guilty pleas but also including an unusually high number of acquittals or pre-trial rulings adverse to the government, have continued vigorously under Christie's successors in an office now led by the Democratic-nominated U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.

Authors Ted Sherman and Josh Margolin are investigative reporters who long worked the Star-Ledger, the state’s largest daily newspaper. St. Martin’s Press, which published the book this month, says, “The Jersey Sting takes you deep inside a one-of-a-kind case, through a narrative fashioned from scores of interviews — both on and off the record — and from thousands of pages of documents, criminal complaints, transcripts of federal wiretaps, court records, and sworn depositions.”  Book excerpts set the scene, as follows:

On a warm day that would turn overcast with scattered rain, climbing to near 80 degrees in the summer humidity, more than 300 FBI and other federal agents were in position across the metropolitan area well before the crack of dawn. Deployed from Brooklyn and Jersey City to the wealthy beachfront enclave of Deal along the Jersey Shore, it was an invasion force about to execute a coordinated assault of military-style precision, a takedown that would shatter New Jersey’s political landscape and reach all the way into the governor’s office, while tearing apart an insular Orthodox religious community that had long shunned outsiders.

The authors, each of whom has been writing for years about corruption in New Jersey and its politics, provide this additional context:

For nearly three years, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office had been trolling for corruption in one of the nation’s most corrupt states, and this was D-day. It was all about to come down. Some news organizations had already been tipped off that “something big” was going to happen. In the second-floor newsroom of The Star-Ledger—New Jersey’s largest newspaper—editors were deploying their own army of staff, mostly operating on educated guesswork and cryptic conversations with sources on just where to send them. They knew there were going to be some high-profile arrests and that it was going to be big, but they had no idea just how crazy it was about to get. Something about political corruption and a Brooklyn rabbi, sources had suggested, in a state already well known for its scandals.

The Justice Integrity Project has reported extensive criticism of the prosecution, including a unanimous decision in February by a federal appeals court that prosecutors erred in charging candidates for office with bribery under the federal Hobbs Act. 

Our report was entitled, "Court Slaps Feds Again For Christie-Era NJ Prosecutions." Christie, portrayed at right, has vigorously defended the prosecutions, as have his successors. On March 20, Hudson Reporter columnist Al Sullivan wrote that the book “largely reads like an advertisement for federal investigators, who apparently gave the authors free access to information that would have been significantly harder for them to obtain through regular freedom of information channels.”

Margolin is now a senior reporter covering law enforcement and national security at the New York Post after years writing one of New Jersey’s best-known political columns for the Star-Ledger.

He responded to Sullivan’s comment by saying The Jersey Sting authors cannot describe their sources beyond the identification provided in the book. Also, Margolin said the authors tried their best to be fair to all sides but readers will have to reach their own judgments. Additional details on the book are available at the publisher’s website.

The authors, in the midst of many public appearances to promote their book, have agreed to appear soon live on the weekly public affairs “Washington Update” radio show I co-host on Thursdays with My Technology Radio network founder Scott Draughon. 

The co-authors are each award-winning journalists whose work examining the crony deals, no-bid contracts and widespread patronage at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey led to an unprecedented federal takeover of New Jersey’s only medical school. Margolin is credited with exposing scandals involving former Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevy. Sherman’s recent stories include documentation of widespread abuse by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners, leading to the governor’s firing of six members of the authority's board.

 

Listed below are selected articles on legal reform and political, security and media factors. The articles contain a sample of news. See the full article by visiting the Project home page's section on News Reports, and clicking the link.

Washington Examiner, With no debate and no objective, Obama enters a war, Timothy P. Carney, March 21, 2011. Obama's entry into Libya's civil war is troubling on at least five counts. First is the legal and constitutional question. Second is the manner of Obama's announcement. Third is the complete disregard for public opinion and lack of debate. Fourth is the unclear role the United States will play in this coalition. Fifth is the lack of a clear endgame. Compounding all these problems is the lack of trust created by Obama's record of deception.

Salon /Unclaimed Territory, Court allows constitutional challenge to new FISA law, Glenn Greenwald, March 21, 2011. Today, a three-judge appellate court dealt a serious blow to the Bush/Obama tactic for shielding government eavesdropping from judicial review (i.e., placing secret executive surveillance above and beyond the rule of law). In October, 2007, candidate Barack Obama -- in response to the Bush administration's demand for a new FISA law -- emphatically vowed that he would filibuster any such bill that contained retroactive amnesty for telecoms which participated in Bush's illegal spying program. But in a move that shocked many people at the time -- though which turned out to be completely consistent with his character -- Obama, once he had the nomination secured in July, 2008, turned around and did exactly that which he swore he would not do: he not only voted against the filibuster of the bill containing telecom amnesty, but also voted in favor of enactment of the underlying bill. That bill, known as the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, was then signed into law by George W. Bush.

Professors Blogg, Censorship of Assange articles in the Guardian & Swedish press, Dr. Marcello Ferrada de Noli, March 19, 2011. A human rights activist updates his research about Swedish and United Kingdom newspapers that block readers from citing certain Justice Integrity Project and Naomi Wolf articles regarding Sweden’s investigation of a WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The blocked articles mention U.S. political strategist Karl Rove, who lists on his website that he has been advisor to the Swedish government and who called for Assange’s execution in a television news interview Aug.7. Rove’s defenders in Sweden deny suggestions that the Assange investigation has been flawed by irregularities.

Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Minor, Ex-judges still in limbo, Jerry Mitchell, March 22, 2011. Another day, another delay in the resentencings of former trial lawyer Paul Minor and two former judges imprisoned in a judicial bribery case.  Minor's attorney, David Debold of the Washington, D.C., law film Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, took the postponement of the sentencing hearing as a hopeful sign that U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate is seriously considering their request to vacate the convictions of Minor and former Harrison County judges John Whitfield and West Teel. On Dec. 11, 2009, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the resentencings after throwing out their bribery convictions. The court also upheld their convictions under the honest services statute and Minor's conviction on racketeering.

Salon / Unclaimed Territory, The manipulative pro-war argument in Libya, March 22, 2011. By all accounts, one of the prime administration advocates for this war was Hillary Clinton; she's the same person who, just two years ago, said this about the torture-loving Egyptian dictator: "I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family."

 

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