New York Times: At the Sharpe James Trial, a Slim Show of Support
Just a week after opening big, with a packed house and an overflow crowd watching a video feed in a courtroom down the hall, New Jersey’s marquee corruption trial had already dwindled to the scale of a weekday matinee, playing to an audience whose meager size seemed out of all proportion to the wide swath cut through the city by a mayor who would have never been mistaken for small.
It will be a long trial, to be sure, two or three months probably, and then another trial is set to follow, on the credit-card expenses that Mr. James, 72, billed to the city. But it was hard not to wonder just where all his supporters had gone — the ones who had filled his fund-raisers, who had followed him onto the city payroll, who had elected him in 12 straight elections: city council, state senate and five terms as mayor, all the way through his final narrow victory over Cory Booker in 2002.
A few more supporters drifted in throughout the morning, peaking at about a dozen around lunch hour, filling two pewlike benches beside Mr. James’s wife as Judith H. Germano, an assistant United States attorney, questioned Mr. Franklin about Mr. James’s influence over the sale of city property as mayor.
I’ve actually been reluctant to blog at all about former Mayor James’ corruption trials. Not so much because I’ve made up my mind about the case — after all, the man deserves a fair trial — but because I believe that James is one of the last icons of Newark’s past.
However the charges play out, I’ve read, heard and frequently blogged about the former Mayor’s statements in the press, from calling Cory Booker’s upbringing into question to “they ain’t shooting at me” in reference to rampant violent gun crime in the city. He created a political culture of fear and favoritism in City Hall.
I do believe that James will be found guilty, either of engineering sweetheart real-estate deals (pun intended) with city land or of fraudulent credit card charges that ran into the tens of thousands while Newarkers faced their largest city budget crisis in recent memory. And there will be hubris in the fact that the man who once was the city’s Chief Power Broker was brought down in a federal courthouse just down the street from City Hall, Newark would do better to focus their attention on making their city a better place to live.
In short, I’m looking forward to the day when Newark has finally moved past Sharpe James.