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The James Lessons
Victor M. Saraiva
lessons can we draw from the recent trial and condemnation of Newark’s former
Mayor Sharpe James? JAMES
GUILTY! City Hall in shock. City residents in disbelief.
These were the
there were the picture opportunities for a posturing Attorney General and a U.S.
Attorney, and mixed messages received by a city that still struggles with the
multi-hued shadows of
resident of this city for many decades, my reaction to the initial James
indictment, was and has been silence, until today that is. Yes I am convinced that James is guilty
of corruption, but the trial and subsequent media circus I have found
ponder some questions:
If former Mayor Sharpe James is being tried for corruption of office, why
create two trials?
Why were no other individuals, besides James' mistress, charged for the
purchase, and obscene profits, of city land acquired at bargain basement
prices? Individuals, one must
recognize, who had documented ties to James, as previous campaign
Why did the Booker administration, and why was it allowed by the U.S.
Attorney’s office, to enter into ‘buy-back agreements’ with such previous
‘buyers’ of cheap city land? Why
were such people given an option, such a blatant ‘free-ride’? Once the buy-backs went into effect,
essentially these individuals were exonerated of any complicity in corruption
don’t think James ever thought he would be found guilty, after all where
was the money trail? How had he
profited by way of Miss Riley, except presumably in sexual favors? It is logical
to assume that James was expecting his knowledge of and ties to
powerful interests in this city, who had profited through their dealings with
the James administration over the years, to shield him from explosive questions
of corruption of office. He was sure he would walk away from the
trial virtually untouched.
I really believe that these thoughts surrounded
Sharpe James during those early days in court. But it didn’t work out that way.
Those same powerful 'others' were never dragged into question, and James of
course could be counted on to keep his mouth shut; he wouldn't want to implicate
himself in further acts of corruption, would he
creating two trials, the justice system essentially created an alternative road
of explanation and resolution for the land sale issue; corruption in office
became an offshoot of single acts of sexual desire of a morally corrupt
man. In other words, corruption was
sidetracked into moral
official corruption story would be quarantined to James’ use of city credit
cards, used for questionable outings to exotic locations, again by innuendo, for
sexual trysts--corruption tinged by moral corruption. But most important
of all, the public has been handed a 'sacrificial lamb' to satisfy its
thirst for accountability. The trail was blazed by the two trial
decision to end with James and his girlfriend; the system, the machinery of
corruption would be virtually left intact and safe, to see yet another day-- to
see many more days, hidden in the shadows of
Sharpe James has been corrupt, but he has been tried and will be again, for the
wrong reasons. Well, wrong given
the perspective that his favors were ‘purchased’ in other ways that more
clearly would establish the extent of public corruption whose
tentacles extend throughout this city, county and state. But we won’t hear about any of that, not
Am I the only one scratching his head and
final thought; the day James is found guilty a Star-Ledger photographer is
conveniently front and center at the U.S. Attorney’s office to capture a display
of celebration by this State’s highest law enforcement officials: U.S. Attorney
Christie and Attorney-General Milgram.
understandable that they would be pleased to have successfully obtained a guilty
verdict, but why orchestrate a public display of jubilation at the obvious
destruction of a human being and his family?
The James lessons leave us with many more
questions than answers, in a city that is no stranger to the unceasing malaise
that plagues much of our country these
Victor M. Saraiva
is senior Editor of The Citizen, and a Newark resident.
Posted May 04,
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