Posts Tagged ‘Jon Corzine’
Monday, July 26th, 2010

A year after a major public corruption sting in New Jersey, Justice Department investigators have determined that public comments made by New Jersey’s former acting U.S. Attorney did not violate DOJ regulations, the Star-Ledger reported.

Ralph Marra (DOJ)

The department’s internal ethics probe centered on remarks in a news conference made by Ralph Marra Jr., as well as the former head of the FBI’s Newark Division, Weysan Dun. Democrats claimed the two unfairly politicized the sting to help the political chances of Marra’s ex-boss,  Chris Christie, the former N.J.  U.S. Attorney who successfully ran for governor last year.

Christie, the Republican challenger, defeated Democrat Jon Corzine last November.

The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility issued a letter last week, which was obtained by the Star-Ledger, clearing Marra and Dun of any wrongdoing in the wake of the high-profile corruption case.

“Based upon the results of our investigation, we concluded that you did not violate any professional obligation and thus did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment in this matter,” wrote Mary Patrice Brown, the office’s acting head.

The comments in question were made at a July 2009 news conference announcing the arrests of 44 people — 29 of which were public officials — in a far-reaching federal corruption probe.

In response to questions about state corruption, Marra said: “There are easily reforms that could be made within this state that would make our job easier, or even take some of the load off our job. There are too many people that profit off the system the way it is and so they have no incentive to change it. The few people that want to change it seem to get shouted down. So how long that cycle’s going to continue I just don’t know.”

Department guidelines restrict prosecutors from making “extrajudicial comments” that may have the effect of “heightening public condemnation of the accused.” In addition, critics argued the remarks implicitly endorsed Christie.

Corruption became a central issue in New Jersey, and Christie, the state’s former U.S. Attorney, leveraged his law-and-order background in the aftermath of the sting. His campaign vowed to clean up corruption, and he later associated Corzine with the sting despite the fact that the then-governor was not implicated in the case and had announced proposals for ethics reform.

Former Democratic assemblyman Louis Manzo, who was netted in the sting, also accused the FBI and federal prosecutors of choreographing the operation to propel Christie into office.

Upon winning the race, rumors surfaced that Christie would nominate Marra to be the state’s next Attorney General — an appointed position in New Jersey.

In fact, Christie nominated Marra for his current position as senior vice president for legal and governmental affairs at the state’s Sports and Exposition Authority — with a reported paycheck of $195,000.

Nine other former colleagues have also been bumped into the Christie administration since he became governor, including:

  • Marc Larkins to be the executive director of the New Jersey School Development Authority Board
  • Robert Hanna to be the director of the Division of Law in the Attorney General’s office.
  • Stephen Taylor to be the director of Criminal Justice in the AG’s office.
  • Deborah Gramiccioni to be director of the Authorities Unit in the AG’s office.
  • Jeffrey S. Chiesa to be Christie’s chief counsel.
  • Kevin M. O’Dowd to be deputy chief counsel.
  • Charles McKenna to be head of the state’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
  • Michele Brown to be appointments counsel.
  • Lee Solomon to be the president of the board of public utilities.

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, said the ethics allegations were “ridiculous.” Instead, he pointed to the question of who leaked word of the internal probe to the press last August.

“Ralph Marra was a professional, highly regarded federal prosecutor for more than 20 years,” Drewniak told The Associated Press on Sunday. “More offensive was that the allegations — now shown to be patently false — were leaked by officials in the Justice Department itself. To our minds, that raised much more serious questions about politicization of an important and successful criminal investigation.”

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Marc Larkins speaks after Gov. Chris Christie announces his nomination. (gov)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has named Marc Larkins to be the executive director of the New Jersey School Development Authority Board, according to a news release.

Larkins is an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey who has held a number of positions in the office since he joined in 2003. He has served as Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney, Acting First Assistant U.S. Attorney, Acting Executive U.S. Attorney and council. In addition, he has been the chief of the government fraud unit.

Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s office, Larkins was a trial attorney in the Justice Department’s Civil Division from 1999 to March 2003. Simultaneously, from February 2000 to March 2002, Larkins was Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

Christie, who was U.S. Attorney for New Jersey from 2002-2008, had already named eight of his former colleagues from the U.S. Attorney’s office to serve in his administration. They are:

  • Robert Hanna to be the director of the Division of Law in the Attorney General’s office.
  • Stephen Taylor to be the director of Criminal Justice in the AG’s office.
  • Deborah Gramiccioni to be director of the Authorities Unit in the AG’s office.
  • Jeffrey S. Chiesa to be Christie’s chief counsel.
  • Kevin M. O’Dowd to be deputy chief counsel.
  • Charles McKenna to be head of the state’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
  • Michele Brown to be appointments counsel.
  • Lee Solomon to be the president of the board of public utilities.
Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Gov. Chris Christie (gov)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has named Lee Solomon to be the president of the board of public utilities, The Star-Ledger of New Jersey reports.

Solomon, who currently is a state Superior Court judge in Camden County, was a Deputy U.S. Attorney under Christie, running the prosecutor’s offices in Camden and Trenton. He previously was a Camden County Freeholder, a state assemblyman, 1992 GOP congressional candidate and Camden County prosecutor. Christie was the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey from 2002-2008.

During the news conference at which Christie announced Solomon’s new post, the governor praised Solomon’s judgment and people skills, adding that he had sought proven managers for his cabinet because “a lot of state government has been dysfunctional,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Christie has already named seven of his former colleagues from the U.S. Attorney’s office to serve in his administration. They are:

  • Robert Hanna to be the director of the Division of Law in the Attorney General’s office.
  • Stephen Taylor to be the director of Criminal Justice in the AG’s office.
  • Deborah Gramiccioni to be director of the Authorities Unit in the AG’s office.
  • Jeffrey S. Chiesa to be Christie’s chief counsel.
  • Kevin M. O’Dowd to be deputy chief counsel.
  • Charles McKenna to be head of the state’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
  • Michele Brown to be appointments counsel.
Friday, January 15th, 2010

Michele Brown (McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter)

New Jersey Gov.-elect Chris Christie on Friday said he will name former Assistant U.S. Attorney Michele Brown to be appointments counsel in his administration, The Associated Press reported. Brown, who was one of Christie’s assistants when he ran the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s office, resigned from her job as acting First Assistant U.S. Attorney in August amid several campaign-related controversies.

When he was U.S. Attorney, Christie took out a second mortgage on his home to loan Brown $46,000, but failed the report the information on his financial disclosures and tax returns. Brown also came under fire by the campaign of Christie’s opponent, Gov. Jon Corzine (D), for working to fulfill a Freedom of Information Act request that concerned her and Christie’s travel records.

The FOIA records revealed that Christie exceeded his government lodging allowance when traveling as U.S. Attorney, often staying in luxury hotels, and that he approved Brown’s requests to stay in some of the same five-star hotels as he.

In addition, the New York Times reported that Brown assisted the Christie campaign by delaying the U.S. Attorney office’s response to the Corzine campaign’s FOIA requests. As a result, then-interim U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra came under pressure from unnamed Justice Department officials to remove Brown from collecting records for the campaign’s request, the Times reported.

Brown resigned shortly thereafter to take a job at McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter.

Christie has already named six of his former colleagues from his U.S. Attorney’s office to serve in his administration. They are:

  • Robert Hanna to be the director of the Division of Law in the Attorney General’s office,
  • Stephen Taylor to be the director of Criminal Justice in the AG’s office,
  • Deborah Gramiccioni to be director of the Authorities Unit in the AG’s office,
  • Jeffrey S. Chiesa to be Christie’s chief counsel,
  • Kevin M. O’Dowd to be deputy chief counsel and
  • Charles McKenna, to be head of the state’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
The former U.S. Attorney for New Jersey is under fire as he runs for governor.

Gov.-elect Chris Christie (R)

If New Jersey Gov.-elect Chris Christie (R) in fact had been considering appointing his controversial ally from the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey, Ralph Marra, to be state attorney general, as previous reports indicated, he’s decided against it.

Christie will name Essex County, N.J., prosecutor Paula Dow (D) to the post today, The Associated Press reports. The New Jersey attorney general is an appointed position, not elected, but requires confirmation by the state Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.

Ralph Marra (Getty Images)

Ralph Marra (Getty Images)

Marra recently returned to his First Assistant U.S. Attorney position after serving as acting U.S. Attorney, a post he assumed in December when Christie resigned to run for governor. Yesterday, Obama administration appointee Paul Fishman was sworn in as the state’s new U.S. Attorney.

During the campaign, Marra’s office was criticized by Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine’s campaign for foot-dragging on Freedom of Information Act requests about Christie’s tenure. In addition, the Justice Department launched an ethics probe of Marra for remarks he made at a news conference about a major public corruption sweep Chrthat Democrats said were intended to boost Christie politically.

Paula Dow (gov)

Paula Dow (gov)

Dow previously worked with Christie in the U.S. Attorney’s office, serving as counsel to the U.S. Attorney and working in the special prosecutions division and the criminal division. She was in the office from 1994 to 2003. Before joining the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s office, Dow worked in the Southern District of New York’s office from 1987 to 1994 and for Exxon for seven years.

Christie has already tapped two of his former subordinates from the U.S. Attorney’s office for his administration – Jeffrey S. Chiesa, who will be Christie’s chief counsel, and Kevin M. O’Dowd, who will be deputy chief counsel.

PolitickerNJ reports the former New Jersey U.S. Attorney will also appoint three other prosecutors to top posts. They are:

Phillip Kwon, a deputy chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as first assistant attorney general

Marc Ferzan, a deputy chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s office, as executive assistant attorney general

Carolyn Murray, first assistant prosecutor in Essex County, N.J., as counsel to the attorney general.

UPDATE:  Christie during a noontime press conference made the nominations official, The Star-Ledger of New Jersey reports. In addition, the newspaper reports that Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Guadagno will also serve as secretary of state in the Christie administration. The lieutenant governor, which is a new position in New Jersey, may serve in duel roles in the administration except for attorney general. Guadagno was the deputy chief of the corruption unit for the U.S. Attorney’s Office from 1990 to 1998.

Monday, December 14th, 2009
Paul Fishman (Friedman, Kaplan, Seiler & Adelman)

Paul Fishman (Friedman, Kaplan, Seiler & Adelman)

The New Jersey U.S. Attorney was sworn in today before 400 people including Attorney General Eric Holder and state dignitaries, the NBC New York Web site reported.

Some of the notable New Jerseyans, who were in attendance according to the news Web site, include:

-Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who administered the oath.

-Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)

-Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)

-Gov. Jon Corzine.

-Gov.-elect Chris Christie, who was the George W. Bush U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.

-Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who served as New Jersey U.S. Attorney under President George H.W. Bush.

-New Jersey FBI Director Weysan Dun.

Holder said Fishman will be one of his top advisers, according to NBC New York. In October, the Attorney General tapped Fishman to be on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, a body that serves as the voice of the U.S. Attorneys at Justice Department headquarters in Washington.

“I will rely on a man I trust,” Holder said at the ceremony, according to the news Web site.

Fishman officially took the helm of the U.S. Attorney’s office in October, shortly after he won Senate confirmation. He replaced acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra, who is under investigation by the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility.

OPR is probing Marra over remarks he made this summer that could have aided Christie’s campaign for governor. The comments were about a July sting, which netted more than 40 defendants. Corzine and Christie both used investigation to show their anti-corruption credentials during the heated race for governor.

Fishman said he would make sure his office is fair and ethical. He added that his office would also fight gang crime and terrorism, according to the NBC news Web site.

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Ralph Marra (Getty Images)

Ralph Marra (Getty Images)

Chris Christie plans to name his controversial ally from the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey,  Ralph Marra, to be the state’s next Attorney General,  The Husdon Reporter reports. Marra recently returned to his First Assistant U.S. Attorney position after serving as acting U.S. Attorney, a post he assumed in December when Christie resigned to run for governor. Christie, a Republican, won last night.

During the campaign, Marra’s office was criticized by Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine’s campaign for a slow response to its Freedom of Information Act requests, which Democrats said was a political move.

In addition, the Justice Department has launched an ethics investigation involving Marra for remarks he made at a news conference about a major public corruption probe. The DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility started an internal affairs probe into the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office’s handling of a corruption investigation that netted 44 individuals –  including 29 elected or public officials — in July.

Christie had used the arrests, in a case named Operation Bid Rid, to argue he would be better at preventing public corruption than Corzine. Polling showed the issue resonated with independent voters, who supported Christie in Tuesday’s election.

The New Jersey attorney general is an appointed position, not elected.

The Christie campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

Friday, October 30th, 2009
Gov. Jon Corzine

Gov. Jon Corzine

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) during a Thursday interview with The New York Times said he regrets having supported Chris Christie’s nomination for U.S. Attorney, saying he believed the former prosecutor politicized the position and used it as a launching pad for his political career. “New information, new conclusion,” Corzine told the NYT.

In a separate interview with the newspaper on Thursday, Christie was asked to name three things Corzine had done right. The governor “struggled for several moments” with the answer, The Times reports. “Let me think. Um … I would probably say I think over all his prosecutorial appointments have been good.”

Chris Christie (Christie for Governor)

Chris Christie (Christie for Governor)

Neither candidate apologized for the personal attacks on their opponent during the campaign, The Times reports. Polls have the two candidates virtually tied for the Nov. 3 election.

In related news, Christie during a Thursday interview on the Don Imus’s radio show said Corzine should “man up and say I’m fat.” Corzine produced an ad claiming Christie “threw his weight around” as a prosecutor. When asked by Imus how much he weighs, Christie replied, “550 pounds,” a response which got a lot of laughs from the Imus team. He added, “I’m going to be a big fat winner” on Election Day.

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

In 2002, Chris Christie drove the wrong way down a one-way street and hit a motorcycle, sending the rider to the hospital. The state’s U.S. Attorney at the time, Christie was not ticketed for the incident.

Now, Christie is the Republican candidate for New Jersey governor, and his Democratic opponent, Gov. Jon Corzine, released an ad saying: “Christie threw his weight around as US Attorney and got off easy” in that and other traffic incidents.

During an interview today on Fox and Friends, Christie addressed Corzine’s allegations that he abused his authority as a U.S. Attorney, TPMDC reported. ”I was not driving the wrong way down a one way street and the Governor knows it,” Christie said. “I didn’t hit someone, they hit me.”

What’s odd about Christie’s comments — although they are “technically accurate,” according to TPMDC –  is that they are in conflict with Christie’s own story in the police report filed about the 2002 accident. In the report, Christie and the motorcyclist gave matching stories: Christie turned in front of the motorcyclist, quickly realized his mistake, but the motorcycle fell and slid onto his car, TMPDC reported.

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Days before he resigned as New Jersey U.S. Attorney last year to run for governor,  Republican Chris Christie hired the inexperienced son of a friend and mentor as a prosecutor. At the time, Democrats criticized the hiring as political patronage.

Chris Christie (Christie for Governor)

Chris Christie (Christie for Governor)

Now, the Star-Ledger newspaper is reporting that Samuel Stern was hired over the objections of “nearly every assistant U.S. attorney who interviewed him.” Also, Christie took the “unusual step of changing the interview process” after prosecutors with whom Stern had interviewed declined to recommend him for the job, the newspaper said.

The hiring of Stern was politically controversial because he is the son of Herbert Stern, a former federal judge who supported Christie for appointment as U.S. Attorney in 2002 over objections about Christie lack of law enforcement experience.

Christie in 2005 awarded Stern’s law firm a $3 million court-monitoring contract. When Christie quit to run for governor, people associated with Stern’s law firm donated $23,800 to Christie’s campaign. Stern and his wife each contributed the maximum allowed, $3,400, the Star-Ledger said.

Christie is now in a close race against Gov. Jon Corzine (D).

Here’s the Star-Ledger’s description of Samuel Stern’s interview process:

Typically, candidates are subject to several rounds of interviews, meeting first with three rank-and-file prosecutors. If that goes well, they meet with three division supervisors. The final interview is typically with the U.S. attorney or a top deputy.

In Stern’s case, he performed poorly in his first round, and none of the rank-and-file assistants who interviewed him recommended that he be hired, the officials said. He was given the unusual opportunity for a second chance with three different rank-and-file assistants, but again received negative reviews, the officials said.

Then on Friday, Nov. 14 — after Stern had met with just two supervisors — Christie offered him the job, the officials said. The following Monday, Christie announced his own resignation.