New York Times: Affair Is Cited at Fraud Trial of Ex-Mayor of Newark
Federal prosecutors have argued that Mr. James’s relationship with Ms. Riley was the prime motivation for what they said was his help in steering nine city-owned properties to her. She bought the properties through an urban revitalization program for a total of $46,000, in three purchases over four years, and resold them for $665,000.
In return, Mr. Kwon said, Ms. Riley carried on a relationship with Mr. James, in which she gave him $5,000 worth of boxing tickets and accompanied him on trips to the Caribbean.
“This was not a fire sale, not a land giveaway,” Mr. Kwon said of the property sale program. “It was a redevelopment project.”
Mr. Ashley said that although Mr. James did suggest that city officials follow up with Ms. Riley when she asked about the land sale program, she had qualified for the program on merit. Mr. James’s advocacy, Mr. Ashley said, was an effort to drum up interest in the city’s long-fallow housing market.
“Sharpe James’s job was to build it up, and he did,” Mr. Ashley said of housing in the city’s South Ward, where the redevelopment program was centered. “He’s not corrupt and he’s not a crook.”
Funny: the Times article actually sounds like the defense has a decent case. I think James’ upcoming trial for spending some $60,000 of city money on personal excursions will be a slam dunk for the Attorney General, but this case seems a bit trickier. It sounds as though the timing of the relationship between James and Riley is crucial: did their relationship precede the development deals, or was it the other way around?
James might be able to walk away from this case if the relationship can be shown to be coincidental or following after their professional introduction, but either verdict will besmirch his legacy. If guilty, Sharpe James is a crook who took advantage of his position to serve himself rather than the city. If innocent, James will be found to be merely incompetent, handing out development contracts like candy in the aimless pursuit of restoring Newark’s economy with the finesse and accuracy of a sledgehammer.
I imagine that neither reputation will sit well with this former political rock star.