Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, whose legacy is intertwined with some of his former police officers who are now working for the City of Trenton, was sentenced today to 27 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $100,000 in fines after being convicted of using his office to steer cheap land in city-endorsed deals to his mistress.
Federal prosecutors reportedly asked for 15 to 20 years in prison for the former mayor, but Judge William J. Martini responded with a much lighter sentence and reprimanded prosecutors and those asking for the maximum sentence because of a perceived discrepancy between what they were asking for and the crimes Mr. James committed.
“It disappoints me and it shocks me that government would seek 10-20 year sentencing,” said Judge Martini, in reports. “I know in the zeal of prosecution, things sometimes get distorted.”
Trenton’s outgoing Police Director Joseph Santiago and Communications Director Irving Bradley both worked under Mr. James during long tenure as Newark’s mayor, along with Barry Colicelli, Trenton’s now-ousted gang czar.
Mr. Santiago appears to be on his way out of the Trenton scene as well, after losing his court case against plaintiffs including me. We sued over Mr. Santiago’s non-residency in Trenton, and Mr. Bradley appears to be guilty of the same violations, along with being deemed “unqualified” by the state Department of Personnel.
In comparison with other corruption-disgraced New Jersey mayors, Mr. James made off pretty well, although his case was different in that he did not get involved in bribery or extortion or other crimes prevalent with New Jersey political corruption cases.
Terrance D. Weldon, former Ocean Township mayor, received 58 months in prison in 2007 for taking more than $60,000 in bribes from developers. Former Marlboro Township Mayor Matthew V. Scannapieco received 21 months in prison in June of this year for taking $245,000 in bribes from developers and committing tax evasion.
Former Hazlet Mayor Paul Coughlin was sentenced to 24 months in prison in 2006 for taking a single $3,000 bribe from a cooperating witness.
But Mr. James never took any money from anyone, but steered cheap land to his mistress Tamika Riley that netted the Jersey City woman around $700,000 in profits, paid for by developers.