5 NJ officials, candidates face political corruption charges

From left to right: Jason O’Donnell, John Windish, John Cesaro, Mary Dougherty, Sudhan Thomas

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey's attorney general on Thursday charged five public officials and former candidates, including the president of Jersey City's school board, with political corruption.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement that Jersey City School Board President Sudhan Thomas took thousands of dollars in bribes from a cooperating witness from May to July.

Thomas was in the news Wednesday after calling for the resignation of a school board member who had posted online questioning whether the attackers in the Dec. 10 shooting at a Jewish market might have had a point.

Messages seeking a response to the charges were left with Thomas' and three of the defendants' lawyers. It's unclear who is representing the fifth defendant.

Thomas said Wednesday that he will seek to censure Joan Terrell Paige over online comments she made that questioned whether the attackers in the Dec. 10 shooting at the JC Kosher Supermarket had a point in gunning down Jews.


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Thomas condemned the post and said he would seek Paige's resignation at a meeting Thursday, but a message posted on the school board's website said the meeting had been cancelled.

Grewal's statement said that the defendants took tens of thousands in bribes offered in envelopes, paper bags and even a coffee cup stuffed with cash.

The five defendants are charged bribes from a cooperating witness in the form of campaign contributions, according to the attorney general. In return, they promised the cooperating witness that they would vote or use their authority or influence to hire his law firm for lucrative government legal work, according to Grewal.

The other defendants are Jason O’Donnell, a former state Assemblyman and one-time Bayonne mayoral candidate; John Cesaro, a Morris County freeholder; John Windish, a former Mount Arlington council member; and Mary Dougherty a one-time candidate for Morris County freeholder.

Dougherty's attorney, Matthew Beck, forwarded a statement from her in which she said she would fight the allegations and called herself a person of “great integrity.”

Cesaro's attorney, Robert Dunn, said his client denies the allegations and would aggressively defend against them.