Home>Local>Bergen>Caliguire backs up Cryan call for probe of AG’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountibility

Former Bergen County Freeholder Todd Caliguire. (Photo: Todd Caliguire).

Caliguire backs up Cryan call for probe of AG’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountibility

By David Wildstein, November 07 2022 9:12 am

The Republican candidate for Bergen County Executive, Todd Caliguire, is backing legislation introduced by a Democratic state senator to seek an independent review and investigation of the New Jersey attorney general’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountibility after criminal charges filed against the GOP nominee for Bergen County sheriff before last year’s election were later dismissed by a judge who found that the prosecutor cut some corners.

State Sen. Joseph Cryan (D-Union), who has emerged as a strong critic of the OPIA,  has alleged that the office “has acted unethically on a consistent basis and needs to be reviewed.”

“Recent efforts to manipulate the criminal justice system as a political weapon to tip the scales to help a political party are completely un-American and constitute election interference,” said Caliguire, a former deputy attorney general and assistant chief counsel to the governor.

Republican Robert Kugler, the Saddle Brook police chief who ran for sheriff in 2021, was exonerated last week after a Superior Court Judge dismissed an indictment against him that was filed at the start of his campaign.

The judge, Marilyn Clark, found that Kugler did not violate any law by permitting police escorts for funeral processions to cemeteries involving a local funeral home he owns.

Clark said that Deputy Attorney General Eric Cohen, who prosecuted Kugler for the Office of Public Integrity and Accountibility (OPIA), left out key information that might have benefited the suspended police chief, to the grand jury that indicted him, Clark.

“Presenting evidence in fair context, and presenting material exculpatory evidence is certainly required,” Clark stated in her ruling.

This is the latest in a series of black marks against the OPIA.  In July, a judge found that Deputy Attorney General John Nicodemo withheld evidence in the prosecution of a Lakewood rabbi.

A lawyer for Eisemann, Lee Vartan, sought a new trial after discovering Nicodemo and the state attorney general’s office sat on evidence they were required to provide to the defense,  a violation of the Brady Rule that requires exculpatory evidence to be turned over.

Another Superior Court judge also dismissed an indictment against former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-Bayonne), ruling that prosecutors, including Nicodemo and Cohen, got the law wrong.  A panel of state appellate court judges overturned that ruling, and the matter is now headed to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

“These politically motivated accusations and responses by the criminal justice system, controlled by Democrats, are part of a very dangerous pattern.  The criminal justice system must never be  to further the political interest of a political party,” Caliguire stated.  “We are at a crossroads in this country and our state.  Restoring faith in public officials and institutions is paramount.”

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