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Sentencing Set for Matt O’Donnell

O'Donnell cooperated in a corruption sting operation

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MORRIS COUNTY — Matt O’Donnell, the attorney who cooperated in a corruption sting operation where prominent political figures were accused of taking bribes in exchange for legal work. Facing three years in prison, O’Donnell could see postponement since cases, where he is a potential witness have not yet been heard, as reported in NJGLOBE.

Former Jersey City Board of Education President Sudhan Thomas, former Morris County Freeholder John Cesaro, and former Mount Arlington Councilman John Windish are scheduled to appear before a Superior Court judge on June 14 for a hearing.

The five defendants are charged with taking thousands of dollars in bribes from Matt O’Donnell in the form of campaign contributions. In return, the defendants allegedly promised the cooperating witness, 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 following five defendants were charged separately in criminal complaints with second-degree bribery in official and political matters:

  • John Cesaro – Former Morris County Freeholder  (Click here to download indictment)
  • Sudhan Thomas – Jersey City School Board President (Click here to download indictment)
  • Jason O’Donnell – Former State Assemblyman and Former Bayonne Mayoral Candidate (Click here to download indictment)
  • John Windish – Former Mount Arlington Council Member (Click here to download indictment)
  • Mary Dougherty – Former Morris County Freeholder Candidate

The defendants who held public office at the time of the alleged conduct – Thomas, Cesaro, and Windish – also are charged with second-degree acceptance or receipt of unlawful benefit by a public servant for official behavior.

“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 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 face the consequences.”

“These cases reflect one of OPIA’s core missions, which is to root out corruption and misconduct in state and local government and related elections,” said OPIA Director Thomas Eicher. “We are determined to hold public officials and candidates responsible for their actions, no matter their political positions or alliances. New Jersey has some of the nation’s strongest anti-corruption laws, and we will use them to ensure that government officials single-mindedly serve the public interest, not their own selfish interests.”

The defendants were charged in an investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability which began in early 2018 and focused on political figures in Hudson and Morris counties who allegedly solicited illegal campaign contributions from the cooperating witness in return for promised official action to provide him with government work.

The alleged criminal conduct occurred between August and October 2018.
Attorney General Grewal commended all of the prosecutors and detectives who conducted and supervised the investigations for the OPIA Corruption Bureau under the leadership of OPIA Director Thomas Eicher. Deputy Attorneys General Pearl Minato, John A. Nicodemo, and Anthony Robinson are prosecuting the cases under the supervision of Counsel to the Director Anthony Picione. Former OPIA Deputy Chief Jeffrey Manis also supervised the cases.

Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The second-degree charges against those who held public office at the time of the alleged conduct – Thomas, Cesaro, and Windish – carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison without eligibility for parole under New Jersey’s enhanced penalties for official corruption.

The charges are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Attorney General Grewal created the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability in September 2018 to combat corruption and strengthen public confidence in government institutions. Earlier this month, the Attorney General issued a directive codifying OPIA and making it a permanent part of the Attorney General’s Office. That directive established the OPIA Corruption Bureau as the lead office within the Department of Law & Public Safety to investigate and prosecute state criminal violations involving corruption and abuse of public trust.

O’Donnell McCord PC was located at 5 Mount Kemble Avenue, Morristown.

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Frank Cahill
Frank Cahillhttps://www.frankcahill.com
Publisher of Parsippany Focus since 1989 and Morris Focus since January 1, 2019, both covering a wide range of events. Mr. Cahill serves as the Executive Board Member of the Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce, President Kiwanis Club of Tri-Town, and Chairman of the Parsippany-Troy Hills Economic Development Advisory Board. Owner of the Morris now app serving small business in Morris County.
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