Category Archives: U.S Attorney Office

Harper’s Magazine: Manure for the Garden State

Harper’s Magazine’s Scott Horton wrote an excellent piece yesterday detailing how Chris Christie may have used his influence with friends/former employees left over at the US Attorneys Office to stage some political theather to effect the New Jersey race for governor by moving forward on a corruption crackdown that netted 44 politicians, officials and religious leaders in one day last month.

When you add this information together with possible Hatch act violantions and his loan of $46,000 to an employee in the US Attorney’s Office, Michele Brown, and his failures to disclose it on finanical statements and ELEC reports, a clear picture is starting to emerge that Chris Christie may not be the “White Knight” of political corruption busting that he wishes every to believe he is. His suit of armour as the say “Is tarneshed” :
On July 23, Acting U.S. Attorney in New Jersey Ralph Marra grabbed the nation’s attention by stepping before the cameras to announce the fruits of a long political corruption investigation managed by his office. Forty-four individuals had been indicted on charges that demonstrated the “pervasive nature of public corruption in this state,” he said. The haul included two state assemblymen, the mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus, and Ridgefield, and numerous lesser figures. “The politicians willingly put themselves up for sale,” Marra told the press. “For these defendants, corruption was a way of life. They existed in an ethics-free zone.” He praised the long work of the FBI and his team. But of course the media proceeded to credit the man who launched and oversaw the probe for most of its course, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.

As it happens, Christie is the Republican candidate to replace Jon Corzine as governor of New Jersey. He’s running on an anti-corruption platform, and this news—which stole headlines for a solid week—helped to propel him to a solid lead over the incumbent in the polls.

Watching this unfold, it was hard not to notice how convenient it all was for the Christie campaign. The announcement reflected a substantial number of largely unrelated cases, but they had been aggregated and held for arrests all on the same day as a sort of batch-release. Whatever law-enforcement considerations justified this step, it clearly helped gain newspaper headlines. Moreover, the announcement came at the end of July, which is the last possible moment for indictments with political impact in an election year cycle. Department of Justice guidelines preclude a U.S. attorney from announcing politically-charged indictments in a campaign season, which, by general reckoning, would begin the following month.

So it all looked good for Chris Christie—his accusations of public corruption were dramatically validated in newspaper headlines, and he was presented as a sort of Thomas E. Dewey—a clean prosecutor in a position to right the situation. But now, suddenly the Associated Press reported that the

Justice Department was examining whether acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra made inappropriate public comments that boosted Republican Chris Christie’s political challenge to incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine. Before running for office, Christie was the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, and Marra was his top deputy. Marra made the comments last month while announcing the corruption case against dozens of suspects.

But the investigation may wind up reaching far beyond an error in judgment about specific words used at a press conference or the timing of the announcement of indictments. The Justice Department’s internal probe comes just as The New York Times reveals the existence of a significant, undisclosed financial relationship between Christie and Michele A. Brown, another prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office. In response to an appeal from Brown, whose husband had lost his job, Christie loaned her $46,000 and took a mortgage on her home as security. The matter raises interest because failure to report this dealing is potentially a crime—and indeed, in the group of 44 political figures whose indictment was announced on July 23, one—Bergen County Democrat Dennis Oury—was indicted specifically for filing financial statements that failed to disclose a holding in a company that received public funds.

Today, Christie sounds remarkably like Mr. Oury:

“When I make mistakes, I’m going to admit them,” he said, adding that he had already amended some of those filings and would finish the rest by Friday. “It was certainly nothing that I was trying to conceal or hide.”…

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Filed under Chris Christie, ethical violations, Gov. Jon Corzine, Harper Magazine, Hatch Act, Michele Brown, New Jersey, political corruption, Ralph Marra, Scott Horton, U.S Attorney Office

WEINBERG CALLS ON CHRISTIE TO ANSWER CRITICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT ROLE AS U.S. ATTORNEY

TRENTON—In the wake of continued stories in the Star-Ledger questioning Conservative Right Wing Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie’s role in a sweetheart plea deal involving two of his closest political associates and Christie’s assertion that he knew nothing of one of the largest tax fraud cases in New Jersey history—despite the fact that it transpired during his term as U.S. attorney—Lieutenant Gubernatorial candidate Loretta Weinberg today called on Christie to outline his full involvement with the case and role as U.S. Attorney.

“While Christie has been quick to take credit for all the accomplishments of the U.S. Attorney’s office during his tenure, he has run away from the office’s failures even faster. The people of New Jersey deserve answers to critical questions about Christie’s role as U.S. Attorney. What was the policy and criteria for cases being brought to his attention as U.S. Attorney?

“There are only two possible explanations for Mr. Christie’s assertions that he was unaware of this case- either he mismanaged the U.S. Attorney’s office so that a case of this size and import could be settled without his approval or knowledge, or he is not telling the truth about what he knew and when he knew it.”

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Filed under Chris Christie, ethics, Gov. Jon Corzine, Lorretta Weinberg, New Jersey, tax fraud, the Star-Ledger, U.S Attorney Office

PALLONE WANTS ANSWERS FROM JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ON POLITICAL ACTIVITIES OF FORMER CHRISTIE ASSISTANT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Long Branch, NJ — U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today sent the following letter to Acting Attorney General Mark Filip asking whether First Assistant United States Attorney Michele A. Brown had permission to attend a recent political gathering with New Jersey Republican Party leaders and staffers about former U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie’s campaign for governor. The New Jersey congressman also asked the Justice Department whether such activity violates any current laws or guidelines regarding the conduct of employees in Brown’s position.

United States Department of Justice
Acting Attorney General Mark Filip
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-001

February 2, 2009

Dear Acting Attorney General Filip:

I am once again writing your office regarding what I believe to be a troubling pattern of misconduct involving some members of the United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey. As you should be aware, I have raised concerns regarding the increased use of deferred prosecution agreements by the Department, the apparent rewarding of political allies and supporters with lucrative federal monitoring agreements and the increased politicization of the office of United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey by the former United States Attorney Christopher J. Christie.

It would seem that many of my past concerns have been borne out by the facts as shortly after Mr. Christie left office as U.S. Attorney he launched a campaign for Governor of New Jersey. It is troubling however, that the politicization of the office has seemed to continue despite Mr. Christie’s absence. Recently, I learned that one of his top deputies at the office and the current First Assistant United States Attorney, Michele A. Brown, was present at what appears to have been a political gathering of Republican Party county chairman, state legislators and campaign staffers actively engaged in and advising Mr. Christie’s campaign for governor. As I understand it, this meeting was an organized function of Mr. Christie’s political campaign, and not simply a social gathering. It included, among other things, speeches from prominent Republican fundraisers about campaign fundraising strategy, as well as remarks from key personnel of Mr. Christie’s political campaign and Mr. Christie himself about campaign strategy for his candidacy for governor.

I am sure you agree that it is crucial that citizens have the utmost confidence in the impartiality and professionalism of all employees of the Department of Justice and particularly those who serve in senior positions at the various United States Attorneys’ Offices. Given the many examples of misconduct and excess over the last few years at the Justice Department, it is clear that such confidence has been shaken and considerable work needs to be done to ensure that we once again have faith that our laws are faithfully executed and justice is administered fairly and without regard to political consideration.

I would like to know whether Ms. Brown’s attendance at this obviously political strategy meeting was approved of in advance by the Acting United States Attorney Ralph J. Marra, Jr. and whether her attendance violated any current laws or guidelines regarding the conduct of employees in Ms. Brown’s position. Furthermore, given the excessive and inappropriate political activity engaged in under the previous U.S. Attorney, do the applicable guidelines need to be revised and/or strengthened to ensure that senior members of the U.S. Attorney’s staff do not simply become a campaign infrastructure in waiting?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress

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Filed under Chris Christie, Frank Pallone, Michele A. Brown, Misconduct, New Jersey, Republican leaders, U.S Attorney Office

>PALLONE WANTS ANSWERS FROM JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ON POLITICAL ACTIVITIES OF FORMER CHRISTIE ASSISTANT

>

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Long Branch, NJ — U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today sent the following letter to Acting Attorney General Mark Filip asking whether First Assistant United States Attorney Michele A. Brown had permission to attend a recent political gathering with New Jersey Republican Party leaders and staffers about former U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie’s campaign for governor. The New Jersey congressman also asked the Justice Department whether such activity violates any current laws or guidelines regarding the conduct of employees in Brown’s position.

United States Department of Justice
Acting Attorney General Mark Filip
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-001

February 2, 2009

Dear Acting Attorney General Filip:

I am once again writing your office regarding what I believe to be a troubling pattern of misconduct involving some members of the United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey. As you should be aware, I have raised concerns regarding the increased use of deferred prosecution agreements by the Department, the apparent rewarding of political allies and supporters with lucrative federal monitoring agreements and the increased politicization of the office of United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey by the former United States Attorney Christopher J. Christie.

It would seem that many of my past concerns have been borne out by the facts as shortly after Mr. Christie left office as U.S. Attorney he launched a campaign for Governor of New Jersey. It is troubling however, that the politicization of the office has seemed to continue despite Mr. Christie’s absence. Recently, I learned that one of his top deputies at the office and the current First Assistant United States Attorney, Michele A. Brown, was present at what appears to have been a political gathering of Republican Party county chairman, state legislators and campaign staffers actively engaged in and advising Mr. Christie’s campaign for governor. As I understand it, this meeting was an organized function of Mr. Christie’s political campaign, and not simply a social gathering. It included, among other things, speeches from prominent Republican fundraisers about campaign fundraising strategy, as well as remarks from key personnel of Mr. Christie’s political campaign and Mr. Christie himself about campaign strategy for his candidacy for governor.

I am sure you agree that it is crucial that citizens have the utmost confidence in the impartiality and professionalism of all employees of the Department of Justice and particularly those who serve in senior positions at the various United States Attorneys’ Offices. Given the many examples of misconduct and excess over the last few years at the Justice Department, it is clear that such confidence has been shaken and considerable work needs to be done to ensure that we once again have faith that our laws are faithfully executed and justice is administered fairly and without regard to political consideration.

I would like to know whether Ms. Brown’s attendance at this obviously political strategy meeting was approved of in advance by the Acting United States Attorney Ralph J. Marra, Jr. and whether her attendance violated any current laws or guidelines regarding the conduct of employees in Ms. Brown’s position. Furthermore, given the excessive and inappropriate political activity engaged in under the previous U.S. Attorney, do the applicable guidelines need to be revised and/or strengthened to ensure that senior members of the U.S. Attorney’s staff do not simply become a campaign infrastructure in waiting?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress

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Filed under Chris Christie, Frank Pallone, Michele A. Brown, Misconduct, New Jersey, Republican leaders, U.S Attorney Office