One of New Jersey’s classic political fights was a 1970s turf war between U.S. Attorney Robert Del Tufo and New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Martin Greenberg (D-South Orange).
Del Tufo had accused Greenberg of using a committee hearing to interfere with a federal investigation of another senator, William Vincent Musto (D-Union City) in 1978. Musto has already been indicted on federal gambling and conspiracy charges but remained a member of the Judiciary Committee. Del Tufo, also a Democrat, said that Greenberg had showed up at his office as Musto’s lawyer.
Greenberg had called a hearing to address allegations of ethical breaches by state law enforcement and investigative agencies. The U.S. Attorney viewed the legislative probe as an attempt by Greenberg to influence potential jurors by giving Musto a public forum to defend himself.
The main subject of the Judiciary hearings was James Jelicks, a New Jersey state police informant who was scheduled to appear as a witness at Musto’s federal trial. Jelicks was expected to accuse the State Police of authorizing him to break into the home of a horse breeder as part of their probe of the state racing commission. As part of his testimony, he was also prepared to allege that federal prosecutors pushed him to lie during their investigation of Musto.
Greenberg and Musto wound up staying away from the hearing, but Senate Majority Leader John Russo (D-Toms River) and five other Judiciary Committee members steadfastly backed up Greenberg and Musto.
Musto was acquitted on the 1978 charges; four years later, he was convicted on racketeering, extortion and fraud charges. He was re-elected mayor of Union City the day after his sentencing, and a judge later ordered his ouster as mayor and senator.
Greenberg and Musto became friends in the 1950s while Greenberg was a legal assistant to Gov. Robert Meyner and Musto was an assemblyman. Brendan Byrne was Meyner’s chief of staff at the time.
Del Tufo later served as attorney general under Gov. Jim Florio. Greenberg became Byrne’s law partner; Byrne was elected governor in 1973 and Greenberg won a State Senate seat that same year — on his second try.
He later served as a Superior Court judge.
When Del Tufo sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 1985, Greenberg supported someone else.
This story was first published on January 13, 2019.