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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Murphy will conditionally veto bill to apply bribery statute to candidate

By David Wildstein, May 09 2022 12:08 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy will veto a bill extending New Jersey’s bribery laws to candidates for political office who don’t hold elected office and is asking the legislature to make technical changes to include all individuals involved in the transaction, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.

The move appears to back up a claim by the state attorney general’s office that the law has always applied to candidates.

Assemblyman Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River) first introduced the bill in response to the 2009 dismissal of bribery charges against former Assemblyman Louis Manzo (D-Jersey City), but it went nowhere several legislative sessions in a row, even after a similar case involving former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-Bayonne) was dismissed in 2021.

State Sen. Joseph Cryan (D-Union) was the sponsor of the Senate version of the bill.

A state appellate court reversed Superior Court Judge Mitzi Galis-Menendez’s dismissal of the O;Donnell indictment, saying that it is illegal to bribe a candidate.

The appellate court acknowledged a recent bill passed by the New Jersey Legislature that would expand the definition of public servants to candidates in the context of accepting bribes.

“This bill has no bearing on our decision.   It reveals only the Legislature’s desire to avoid future decisions like Manzo,” the decision said.

The appellate judges —  Clarkson Fisher, Patrick DeAlmeida and Morris Smith – said that prior attempts to pass the bill did not suggest that the bribery statute was inapplicable to candidates.

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