N.J. Defendant Slams Gov. Christie, Obama DOJ

Louis ManzoA former New Jersey assemblyman defending himself on corruption charges filed on Oct. 18 a wide-ranging brief alleging selective prosecution in the 2009 case that helped propel Chris Christie to his state's governor's mansion. Louis Manzo, left, requested also that courts vacate his most recent charges as vindictive or help enable a special prosChris Christieecutor.

Manzo, who has emerged as one of the nation's most important critics of prosecutors among defendants, filed an unusually comprehensive set of filings, listed below, seeking the removal of Obama-appointed U.S. attorney Paul Fishman. Manzo, a Democrat, says Fishman has continued what Manzo calls called the corrupt law enforcement practices intitiated by Christie, right. Christie was the Bush-appointed U.S. attorney for New Jersey, resigning at the end of 2008 to begin his campaign for governor. Christie, Fishman and their teams have responded that they have acted appropriately.

Manzo's filing alleges that a Christie-initiated "sting" against 46 defendants in 2009 targeted only one Republican office-holder, and even that defendant was not running for re-election. Manzo said the sweep largely ignored evidence that Solomon Dwek, the federal government's chief witness in the sting, had been bribing Republican officials in Monmouth County. In a leniency deal initiated by Christie and continued by his successors, the government has arranged for Dwek to receive five-figure monthly living expenses from victims of his $50 million bank fraud if he would help prosecutors develop cases by using government funds to donate to local candidates in circumstances suggesting bribery. One was Manzo, who argues he didn't take a bribe, and that the entire process was unfair and an insult to taxpayers and voters.

In September, Fishman, below left, obtained a third indictment of Manzo on corruption charges after federal courts forced Fishman's office to drop the first two as improperly drawn. Manzo has described the third indictment as revenge by what he called “corrupt law enforcement officials” who stick Paul Fishmantogether across party lines. In 2009, authorities indicted Manzo on corruption charges involving his unsuccessful race to become mayor of Jersey City. Favorable publicity from the case helped propel Christie to the governor's mansion on an anti-corruption platform. Christie brought with him to state government top officials from the U.S. attorney's office. Earlier, Christie as U.S. attorney cemented ties by awarding tens of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to former Republican prosecutors.

As we previously reported, the new indictment signed by Fishman accuses Manzo of three felonies: Twice crossing a state border, from New Jersey to Staten Island in nearby New York, to talk with Dwek, who pretended to be a prospective donor to Manzo’s unsuccessful campaign. The third felony charge is that Manzo, who says he neer received any money, failed to report as a crime a suggestion by his brother, Ronald Manzo, and a Jersey City official to accept Dwek’s money.

Fishman, a Democratic appointee of President Obama, has continued the prosecutions against Manzo and others all-out and with a mixed record of success. Revelations have increasingly exposed Dwek as a corrupt and otherwise unreliable witness. Maryland authorities arrested Dwek this year on charges of stealing a car there, prompting the federal government  to stop paying his $12,500 a month in living expenses that he's been receiving for years while helping authorities. That money came from a federally supervised fund of the remaining assets of Dwek's bank fraud victims.

Most of the defendants in the case have pleaded guilty, as normally the case in federal prosecutions, So, have reaped wide public acclaim from news reports and from a widely promoted book, The Jersey Sting, written by two reporters with the cooperation of authorities. But this "Bid Rig III" case has also had several unusual reversals for authorities, including jury acquittals and court rulings vacating charges as unmerited under congressional intent.

In related news, authorities are dropping charges against a former top Democrat whose home was raided in July 2009 just as the governor's race btween Christie and Democratic incumbent John Corine moved into high gear. Star-Ledger columnist Bob Braun described it Oct. 19 in Former N.J. Assembly Speaker Joseph Doria survives the 'slings and arrows.' Braun wrote:

If Corzine had a chance of winning, it vanished that morning. In the face of damaging images of agents carrying evidence boxes from Doria’s home — empty boxes, it turned out — he demanded, and received, Doria’s resignation, but lost to Christie anyway. For all that time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office had a statement from a key witness — alleged bagman Jack Shaw — saying 'Joe Doria never saw a dime and never asked for a dime' from scammer-turned-informant Solomon Dwek.

Manzo Statement and Motions:

Louis Manzo Statement, Oct. 17, 2011:

In moving our case forward, literally hundreds of case laws regarding government misconduct were reviewed. I can categorically state, that because of the implications of personal greed and political motivation driving the misconduct in the Bid Rig III investigation and prosecutions, and because of the magnitude of the contrived sting, the profuse government misconduct that is documented in this matter is, by far, the most egregious in the history of the American justice system.  The public will be alarmed to learn, that in reviewing documented instances of government misconduct in other case laws, the rule of law does not apply to federal prosecutors. The culture of justice exempts them. There are meaningless standards in place for accountability. There are no checks and balances. Political ambition and the power to prosecute remain a lethal combination to due process.

First part of Manzo motions filed on Sept. 27, 2011

Manzo Brief filed on Oct. 18, 2011, with: Exhibit D; Exhibit E; Exhibit E, Part 2; and Exhibit E, Part 3.

 

Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment

Below are background articles on the matters referenced in the column above See the full article by clicking the link.

New Jersey Manzo Case

Jersey Journal, Scorched Earth Litigation, Agustin C. Torres, Oct. 22, 2011.  One of 46 people arrested in Operation Bid Rig III in 2009, former assemblyman Lou Manzo of Jersey City filed a motion this week in a bid to have remaining federal corruption charges against him dismissed. His attorney has managed to have some of the more serious dropped but prosecutors have turned around and tacked on new charges -- the latest is that Manzo did not report a crime being committed. Manzo's attorney, John Lynch of Union City, argues that the charge is unconstitutional since the Fifth Amendment protects citizens from self-incrimination.

Federal prosecutors have apparently decided upon a war of attrition with Manzo, who is their most vociferous critic. From the start, Manzo has accused the Newark office of the U.S. attorney of prosecutorial misconduct, actions that benefited Gov. Chris Christie while he was running for state office, which has led to state jobs for some members of Christie's old Newark office staff. Meanwhile, Manzo has been indicted three times, two of them superseding. This week, a new prosecutor has been assigned to the case. This is about the fifth one and each calls for a delay to allow the newbie to catch up on the briefs, evidence, etc. There will be an NBA season before Manzo goes to trial. Meanwhile, the Jersey City native says that as a result of his experience and that of others around the country, he is advocating for prosecutorial reform. He wants to see the following applied to the U.S. Department of Justice:

1. Time constraints between prosecutors leaving office and running for elective office.
2. Oversight of U.S. DOJ prosecution and misconduct by an outside agency - Office of Inspector General.
3. Mandatory sanctions (suspension and fines) for prosecutors found engaging in misconduct. Prosecution for those when the misconduct is motivated by personal or political ambitions.
4. Term limits for members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees.

I don't see any of this being embraced within the next millennium and definitely not the last one.

Cliffview Pilot, Manzo: New Jersey corruption sweep meant to sweep Christie, friends into office, Jerry DeMarco, July 11, 2011. Government crime fighters illegally brought charges against him in order to further their careers and that of Gov. Christie, who, as New Jersey’s chief U.S. prosecutor, oversaw a massive public corruption sweep that overwhelmingly targeted Democrats, former state Assemblyman and Jersey City mayoral candidate Louis Manzo tells Clifford Pilot in an explosive series of emails. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark “used evidence they know is untruthful to corrupt the sacred grand jury process for the purpose of indicting me a third time,” Manzo writes. They also relied on a “prey for pay” informant who was once a major GOP contributor and eventually proved unreliable, he adds.

Jersey Journal, Political Insider Notes, Agustin C. Torres, July 9, 2011. Former Jersey City Assemblyman and record-breaking mayoral candidate Louis Manzo, left, has been indicted by the feds, again. You would almost think that it has gotten personal between the U.S. Attorney's Office and Lou. This time his crime, according to the feds, is that he failed to report a crime. This is how he sees it in a statement:  Because I reported crimes committed by federal prosecutors in corrupting a sting operation for the purpose of effecting the 2009 NJ Governor's election, and for personally and professionally benefiting themselves, I am and will be continually pursued by corrupt law enforcement officials. They previously targeted me and brought charges against me unlawfully. They have allowed their own confidential informant to break the law under their own direction, by having him put money into active elections, corrupt those election results and disenfranchise voters -- in violation of federal law and the United States Constitution. The USAO has now used evidence they know is untruthful to corrupt the sacred grand jury process for the purpose of indicting me a third time."

Hudson Reporter, Grand jury indicts former Jersey City mayoral candidate on new charges, July 8, 2011. Former  2009 Jersey City mayoral candidate Louis Manzo was charged Friday by a federal grand jury in a second superseding Indictment for allegedly traveling to establish and facilitate a bribery scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Justice Integrity Project, NJ Court Weighs Arrest of Star DOJ Anti-Corruption Witness, Andrew Kreig, June 28, 2011.  A New Jersey judge will interrupt a corruption trial June 28 in Newark to hold a bond hearing for the Justice Department’s now-disgraced former star witness, Solomon Dwek, who was recently arrested in Maryland on stolen car charges.

Justice Integrity Project, Court Slaps Feds Again For Christie-Era NJ Prosecutions, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 21, 2011.  In a major setback for the U.S. Justice Department and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a federal appeals court last week dismissed federal bribery and conspiracy charges against two New Jersey Democrats targeted in a trap set by Christie. Our non-partisan Justice Integrity Project has repeatedly pointed to the 46-defendant “Bid Rig III” case as one of the nation’s most scandalous political prosecutions of recent years.

Ted Sherman and Josh MargolinJustice Integrity Project, Book ‘Jersey Sting’ On Christie Probes Raises Questions, Andrew Kreig, March 22, 2011. 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. Authors Ted Sherman and Josh Margolin, right, 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.”  They appeared on the Washington Update radio show on April 7.

Other New Jersey Prosecutions

Associated Press/Hudson News, U.S. prosecutor closes Sen. Menendez probe; senator says he's vindicated; Gov. Christie, who began the 2006 investigation, stands by decision, Oct. 26, 2011. Gov. Chris Christie says he stands by the timing of a 2006 probe into U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez's relationship with a nonprofit agency, an investigation that began while Christie was serving as the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.

Newark Star-Ledger, Former N.J. Assembly Speaker Joseph Doria survives the 'slings and arrows,' Bob Braun, Oct. 19, 2011.For more than two years, Joseph Doria — one of New Jersey’s most powerful Democratic politicians — lived under a cloud of a federal probe first revealed in spectacularly public FBI raids on his Bayonne home and Trenton office. If Jon Corzine had a chance of winning, it vanished that morning. In the face of damaging images of agents carrying evidence boxes from Doria’s home — empty boxes, it turned out — he demanded, and received, Doria’s resignation, but lost to Christie anyway. For all that time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office had a statement from a key witness — alleged bagman Jack Shaw — saying "Joe Doria never saw a dime and never asked for a dime" from scammer-turned-informant Solomon Dwek. What Jack Shaw, now dead, told the FBI apparently was true because federal prosecutors sent a letter to Doria’s lawyer saying, "Based on the evidence of which we are currently aware, no charges will be brought by this office regarding the circumstances that led to the search." Doria won’t criticize federal authorities or even mention the name of Gov. Chris Christie, under whose tenure as U.S. attorney the so-called "Bid Rig III" investigation began. Christie had already left his federal post to run for governor when the raids were executed in July 2009.

Newark Star-Ledger, U.S. DOJ should clear Sen. Robert Menendez as it did Joseph Doria, Editorial Board, Oct. 18, 2011. It was a shock when Joseph Doria, the longtime mayor of Bayonne and former Assembly speaker, was forced to resign from Gov. Jon Corzine’s cabinet after FBI agents raided his home in the summer of 2009. And now, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman has sent a letter to Doria that clears his name. The investigation is over.  Prosecutors rarely clean up their messes by sending these letters. In rare instances, though, it is the right move.  And now that Doria is cleared, how about Sen. Robert Menendez? He has been under a similar cloud for five years. And before he runs for re-election next year, voters should know whether his case is still alive. After five years, it seems clear that prosecutors have no evidence of a crime and that Menendez is innocent. In this case, a letter stating that would be a service to voters, who should not have to guess about Menendez’s integrity during his re-election campaign.

Newark Star-Ledger, Juror who voted to convict former Secaucus mayor unhappy with trial's outcome, Jason Grant, July 8, 2011. One of the jurors who voted this week to convict former Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell of bribery says he is upset over delivering a verdict he didn’t believe in, one he now hopes will be overturned on appeal.

Terrence McDonaldJersey Journal, Former Secaucus mayor found guilty of bribery charge, not guilty of two extortion charges, Terrence T. McDonald, left, July 6, 2011. Former Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell was found guilty today on a bribery charge, but was cleared of two extortion counts.

Newark Star-Ledger, Editorial: N.J. needs guidelines for law enforcement agencies to bargain with informants, Editorial Board, July 5, 2011. As the New Jersey ACLU revealed in a report released last month, there are virtually no rules or reliable data on the murky underworld where police officers — often accountable to no one — cut deals with criminals, offering all sorts of unholy incentives for being a snitch. While informants have been valuable law enforcement tools, they come with a price: the integrity of the criminal justice system. Each year, thousands of offenders provide all levels of law enforcement with information in order to save themselves. Sometimes, the information is reliable. Often, it’s not.


Below are news reports from previous years. See the full article by clicking the link.

2010
OpEd News, Christie's Corruption Case Christie's Corruption Case Shows Horrid Legacy of 'Loyal Bushies,' Cover-ups, Andrew Kreig, Dec. 3, 2010
Daily Censored, Feds Drop Scandal-Prone Star Witness in Politicized NJ Witch-Hunt, Andrew Kreig, Nov. 30, 2010.
Politicker NJ, Money laundering and “investing in death,” Dwek twisting on the stand, Timothy J. Carroll, Oct. 7, 2010
Politicker NJ, Big-time criminal Dwek wants to go free, Timothy J. Carroll, Oct. 7, 2010
NorthJersey.com, Dwek’s father tried to get him a presidential pardon, Matthew Van Dusen, Oct. 7, 2010

2009

Newark Star-Ledger, Solomon Dwek, Key Witness In FBI's N.J. Corruption Probe, Admits Role In Real Estate Scam, MaryAnn Spoto, Oct. 20, 2009
New York Times, Christie May Have Gotten Improper Aid, David M. Halbfinger, Oct. 19, 2009
Emptywheel, Former US Attorney, Claims He’s Still “Got” Federal Prosecutors, Talked With Them About State Jobs, Marcy Wheeler, Aug. 19, 2009
Harper’s/No Comment, Manure for the Garden State, Scott Horton, August 19, 2009
Newark Star-Ledger/NJ.com, Karl Rove and Chris Christie Discussed N.J. Governor Run While Serving As U.S. Attorney, Michael Rispoli, August 12, 2009

2007
Asbury Park Press, Creditors request Dwek bankruptcy, PNC Bank, 2 others initiate action, James W. Prado Roberts, Feb. 10, 2007