A state grand jury indicted two Paterson councilmen on election fraud charges last month, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced Wednesday.
Councilmen Alex Mendez and Michael Jackson were charged with election fraud, mail-in ballot fraud, unauthorized possession of ballots, tampering with public records and falsifying records. Mendez faces additional counts of false registration of transfer and attempted false registration or transfer.
“These indictments are an important step in our prosecution of these two sitting city councilmen on charges including second-degree election fraud,” Grewal said. “As we have seen all too clearly in recent months, public confidence in our democratic process is critical. If anyone tampers with an election in New Jersey and threatens that process, we will hold them accountable.”
Mendez, Jackson and two others, Shelim Khalique and Abu Razyen, were charged by complaint last June over alleged mail-in ballot Fraud in Paterson’s municipal elections last May, where the U.S. Postal Inspection Service found hundreds of mail-in ballots bound together in a series of mail deposit boxes.
State law limits ballot bearers to three ballots.
In the May 12 race, Mendez finished 240 votes ahead of longtime incumbent William McKoy, but Passaic County Superior Court Judge Ernest Caposela blocked him from taking office and ordered a new election be held.
The true result of the May 12 race, he said, was unknowable, and the move avoided a protracted legal fight.
Mendez won the second Ward 3 race, held in November, by a mere nine votes, leading McKoy 3,769-3,760.
Jackson defeated Nakima Redmon by 245 votes in the first race. He was indicted on Feb. 17. Mendez was indicted a week later, on Feb. 24.
Deputy Attorney General Eric Cohen is prosecuting the case with oversight from Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee and Office of Public Integrity and Accountability Deputy Director Anthony Picione.
Paul Brickfield is representing Mendez, while Jackson is represented by Theodore Kyles.
“New Jersey’s criminal code includes various indictable offenses related to election fraud and, in particular, fraud involving mail-in ballots,” OPIA Director Thomas Eicher said. “With these indictments, we’re using those laws for their intended purpose— defending free and fair elections by prosecuting those accused of seeking to undermine them.”