Home>Highlight>Middlesex prosecutor hasn’t contacted local officials on racist flyer probe, council president says

Edison Council President Robert Diehl. (Photo: Township of Edison.)

Middlesex prosecutor hasn’t contacted local officials on racist flyer probe, council president says

Edison Eight investigation hasn’t moved much in nearly four-year-old probe

By David Wildstein, February 16 2021 2:25 pm

Three months after the state attorney general launched a probe into an anonymous racist flyer in a 2017 Edison school board campaign, Council President Robert Diehl says that no interviews have been conducted and the township has not been contacted.

In a letter to Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone obtained by the New Jersey Globe, Diehl said he continues to be “frustrated by what seems to be the lack of attention or cooperation we have received from the attorney general’s office with this matter.”

“If there was ever a time to confront bias crimes, racism and social injustice in America, it is now. The individuals responsible for the ‘racist flyer” brought shame upon our town and deepened the cultural misunderstandings that already exist,” Diehl said.  “The news media was quick to react and made it a national story. To me and my fellow Councilmembers this is wholly unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.”

The mailer – “Make Edison Great Again” – urged voters to “Stop Jerry Shi and Falguni Patel from taking over our school board.”

“The Chinese and Indians are taking over our Town!  Chinese School! Indian School! Cricket Fields,” the flyer said. “Enough is Enough.”

The allegedly fake flyer aimed at inciting the township’s Asian American community is also being investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspector.

The flyer allegedly involves the Edison Eight, a group of local leaders implicated in a conspiracy scandal by the postal inspector: Councilman Ayjay Patil; Board of Education President Jerry Shi; Wilentz law firm partner and Biden delegate Satish Poondi; former Democratic Municipal Chairman Shariq Ahmad; school board member Mohin Patel;  Aloysius Dsouza; Joseph Dsouza; Rah Bhagia, the brother of Democratic Municipal Chairman and mayoral candidate Mahesh Bhagia, and Shi – face a possible criminal investigation after they allegedly circulated a racist mailer.

Diehl said he and Councilman Alvaro Gomez attended a November 5 meeting with U.S. Postal Inspector David Comer where Patil admitted his role.

“Councilman Patil told us that he knew who was responsible for the creation and distribution of the flyer,” the council president said.  “The meeting lasted approximately thirty minutes in which Councilman Patil described the operation and named ‘the architects or masterminds.’”

According to Diehl, Patil “has tried to walk back some of what he told us.”

“This has created a good bit of confusion with regard to his involvement and participation,” Diehl said.

Diehl said a council submitted has “gathered a good deal of evidence over the past three years.

“We are not professional law enforcement. We are not professional investigators,” he told Ciccone.  “I believe that if we had the help of a professional law enforcement agency this investigation would have been brought to a conclusion long ago.”

Conner Ouellette, an assistant prosecutor, declined comment.

In his letter, Diehl cited comments by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who said “we’re committed to fully investigating and prosecuting bias crimes in New Jersey.”

“This statement rings hollow to us here in Edison. Where is our full investigation?” Diehl asked.

Diehl told Ciccone that he’s not going away.

“Personally, I will not allow it to be dismissed or ignored. I have had the honor and privilege of serving as an elected official in Edison for twenty years,” he told the prosecutor. “I promised the residents of Edison I would not give up when it came to bringing the responsible individuals to justice. I will not break that promise. I will not give up. My determination only grows with my frustration.”

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