Paterson election fraud case hearing against Councilman Michael Jackson postponed

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PATERSON — The courts postponed Thursday’s scheduled hearing in the New Jersey attorney general’s voting fraud case against Paterson Councilman Michael Jackson until March 16.

Jackson — who is running for mayor — said he thinks the state is delaying the case so that the indictment against him will remain in place and tarnish his reputation when Paterson holds its election in May. The councilman accused Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration of using the criminal proceeding to help its ally, Paterson’s current mayor, Andre Sayegh.

“The Attorney General’s Office has no interest in taking my case to trial,” Jackson asserted. “They have absolutely no evidence against me.”

Jackson predicted the charges would go away after the May election.

The Attorney General’s Office did not issue any response to Jackson’s assertions. Court officials said the adjournment stemmed from a schedule set by the judge involving pending legal motions in the case.

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Sayegh expressed confidence in the attorney general’s handling of the election fraud allegations.

“We’ve known the Attorney General’s Office to be honorable in their pursuit of justice, particularly when the public trust has been betrayed,” the mayor said. “I am confident that the Attorney General’s Office will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the integrity of elections in Paterson.”

Meanwhile, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed is scheduled to render a decision next week on whether another councilman indicted in the voting fraud case, Alex Mendez, can apply for pretrial intervention. The Attorney General’s Office already rejected Mendez’s PTI application, and he has appealed that decision to the judge.

If admitted to PTI, Mendez could have the charges against him wiped away if he complies with the conditions of the program. Mendez’s lawyer has said he would accept PTI only if the terms allowed him to remain on the City Council. Mendez also is running for mayor in May.

Paterson Press asked Sayegh if he is concerned about Jackson and Mendez running against him in May.

Sayegh said he took office shortly after a corruption scandal, a reference to the official misconduct conviction of former Mayor Joey Torres. Sayegh said he has “restored integrity and stability to City Hall.”

“We cannot afford to have individuals who haven’t accomplished anything meaningful during their time in office bring our city back to a time of dysfunction and corruption,” the mayor said.

Neither Mendez nor his lawyer responded to messages seeking their comments for this story.

A February 2021 indictment charged Mendez with seven crimes: election fraud, fraud in casting a mail-in vote, unauthorized possession of ballots, tampering with public records, falsifying or tampering with records, false registration and attempted false registration.

The most serious charge — election fraud — is a second-degree offense that would come with a maximum 10-year prison sentence. That charge is based on the allegation that Mendez registered someone to vote in the 3rd Ward even though he knew the person did not live in the election district.

Jackson, meanwhile, was indicted on five of the same criminal charges that Mendez is facing, with the exception of the two counts of false registration. The election fraud charge against Jackson accused him of submitting a completed mail-in ballot for someone while allegedly knowing the voter did not make the candidate selection marked on the ballot.

Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press.

Email: editor@patersonpress.com

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Paterson NJ election fraud case hearing postponed to March