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Vigilant Shield · Martial Law · Bailout Bonanza · Food Shortages · Politics of Naming · Food Sovereignty · World Food Prices · Newark's PD · James Lessons · Muhammad Ali · Woody Guthrie · RFK Address · Inspiration · Big Oil · Fencing Democracy · Living Dangerously · Sponsoring Tyranny · Newark's Snow Job

Click above, for articles in this issue.   


The James Lessons


by Victor M. Saraiva



What 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 headlines.          


Then 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 corruption.                                                                                          

As a 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 troubling.                                    


Let’s ponder some questions:

1. If former Mayor Sharpe James is being tried for corruption of office, why create two trials?                       


 2. 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 contributors.                      


3. 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 by default.


I 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 now?         


By 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 corruption.                                                                             

The 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 anonymity.                                                                                                       

Yes, 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 this time.           


Am I the only one scratching his head and ‘wondering’ why?               


One 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.                                      


It is 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 days.                                                                                       



Victor M. Saraiva is senior Editor of The Citizen, and a Newark resident. 

Posted  May 04, 2008

URL:                 SM 2000-2011                                                                                


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