Why I won’t work with the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office
Despite the offer from the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office Internal Affairs Unit, Real Jersey City publisher Michael Shurin explains why he declined to work with an investigation into an article regarding Chief Philip Zacche’s former off-duty work in the Marion Gardens housing complex.
Respectfully, I appreciate the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office (HCPO) Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) extending me an invitation to participate with their investigation into my article highlighting potential theft of services stemming from an off-duty Jersey City Housing Authority (JCHA) job Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) Chief Philip Zacche claimed to have once worked in Marion Gardens.
All that said, it’s my belief that their investigation is nothing more than a political charade. Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez and First Deputy Assistant Prosecutor Peter Stoma will make sure this gets swept under the rug to assist Mayor Steven Fulop’s political ambitions and take care of Stoma’s friends in the Jersey City Police Superior Officers Association (JCPSOA).
Also, so everyone understands how serious of a civic responsibility Stoma thinks jury duty is:
They literally don’t need me for an investigation, especially to have a grand jury indict, but below are the two reasons I suspect they’re contacting me:
1. They want to interrogate me to find out who my sources are. That’s obviously not happening. On top of that, they’ll probably maliciously prosecute anyone involved with whistle blowing.
2. In an attempt to save face – given that state law enforcement might be coming down hard on the Fulop Administration – the HCPO is opening an investigation to make it seem like they have interest in taking on corrupt public officials.
Let’s not forget – the article was published April 11, 2016, but I didn’t get a call until May 2, 2016. In addition to those two reasons, below are three real reasons I have no faith in the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office:
1. As far back as February 11, 2016, I expressed my concerns with Suarez that the Fulop Admin. was failing to respond to Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests regarding JCPD officers – specifically OP2015-2223. While her office declined to take action, fraudulent documents were produced which eventually had to be reissued.
Suarez’s HCPO did nothing, again, and the issue of timesheet OPRAs remains a problem she has neglected. This includes emails sent to her with allegations of Director James Shea withholding documents to aid the HCPO’s upcoming indictment of current and retired JCPD officers, so as to end their very serious lawsuits against the Fulop Administration – which could damage the mayor’s campaign for governor.
In addition, they’ve also failed to seriously respond to emails titled “Surveillance of JCPSOA officials.” Generally speaking, I would hope that would be enough to get a meeting in Hudson County. In reality, it shows that this is still Hudson County.
2. The political prosecution of ex-Hudson County Freeholder Chairman Jose Munoz for “directing two juveniles to enter a structure and go on the fire escape to rip down signs which were attached to the fire escape without the permission of the owner or tenants to do so.”
Yes, because that has nothing to do with criminalizing the political opposition. More interesting is the timeline of settlements, guilty pleas, and sentencing:
– According to Hudson County View, Munoz settled his lawsuit with West New York, and the WNY Board of Commissioners unanimously approved on January 20th, 2016.
– According to an OPRA response from the HCPO, on January 22, 2016, Munoz and a co-defendant plead guilty to lesser charges.
– According to Hudson County View, on March 10, 2016, Roque had a fundraiser with the theme of burying the hatchet with old political foes for the sake of the betterment of the town. It was reported that Munoz surprisingly attended.
– According to an OPRA response from the HCPO, on March 11, 2016, Munoz and his co-defendant were sentenced to fines only.
According to a North Hudson source, Munoz faced a serious punishment if he didn’t reconcile his issues with West New York Mayor Felix Roque. Ironically his sentencing occurred the day after attending Roque’s fundraiser.
I wonder if West New York’s law department being privatized by Scarinci Hollenbeck, and Suarez being an alum of the firm, has anything to do with how the HCPO handled that case.
It should also be noted that Scarinci is a major political supporter of Fulop’s bid for governor, so I wonder how much he’s influencing who gets indicted and who doesn’t in Hudson County.
3. The prosecution of Ward B Councilman Khemraj “Chico” Ramchal.
I really don’t understand how it’s acceptable to use a city council seat as a bargaining chip with the HCPO. Good for him that he continued to vote yes for everything Fulop asked of the council, I’m sure it helped with him not getting the hammer.
I wish the best for Chico moving forward. He’s a good person, yet he clearly couldn’t handle the lifestyle of a true Hudson County Democrat. In reality, the punishment will ultimately fit the crime for Chico.
That said, I really don’t care if Jersey City and Hudson County politicos think I’m the biggest P.O.S. in journalism for exposing all of this. Actually, that’s great, because it means I’m doing the job. What I can’t handle is the blatant misinformation below, published by the Jersey Journal, a paper which crucified Chico, but wouldn’t publish a video of Jersey City NAACP Pres. Bill Braker ‘piss drunk’ after they called him a “Hudson Newsmaker”:
WATCH OUT, PUBLIC OFFICIALS
Hudson County has a long history of public corruption, and prosecutors are often accused of taking it easy on elected and public officials. Ramchal’s case was the first chance new Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez, who took office in July, had to show she would be tough on the politically connected. Some readers took issue with Ramchal avoiding jail time, but Suarez taking away his right to hold public or elective office — forever — sends a message that officials who commit crimes should not expect to skate.
Because I’m saving a piece on media in Hudson County, I’ll hold back further critiquing for now. At the least, I should wait to read the Journal’s one-year anniversary story of waiting two weeks – until the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend – to publish the Sgt. Vincent Corso DUI video and minimize the fact that he once killed a teenager (on top of a lot of other things they covered-up for him, some of which CBS Philadelphia didn’t).
Anyhow, back to the main point – it’s extremely hard for me to believe the HCPO under Suarez has started to crack down on corruption. In my opinion, attorney Donald Scarinci is the political boss of the operation, thus the HCPO works to benefit Fulop.
That’s why I won’t work with them – everything I’ve written, and some which I’ve missed, is the reason I feel that way.
Given all that, if the HCPO really wants to do a good investigation of Zacche, which I highly doubt, I would suggest getting all of his E-Z Pass records. After that, look into all the officers associated with the program, going back 5 years, especially some of the officers Suarez was publicly speaking with at the Jersey City Police Unity Tour.
Finally, as it seems my journalism is coming to an end, isn’t “Hudson Prosecutor: Trump is Putin, Carson should question God’s existence“ truly worthy of its own article? I’ve never been one for clickbait headlines, but I’m thinking of giving it a try just to see.