Home>Highlight>Middlesex prosecutor said attorney general investigating Edison flyer, local officials say

Edison Council President Robert Diehl speaks at a press conference at Township Hall on March 3, 2021. Photo: Zoom.

Middlesex prosecutor said attorney general investigating Edison flyer, local officials say

Mayor Thomas Lankey said prosecutors need to step up

By David Wildstein, March 03 2021 8:47 pm

Two Edison officials today called on state law enforcement to crack a 40-month-old cold case involving racist flyers in a 2017 local election, saying the aren’t going away and they won’t rest until the ringleaders are identified.

“Now we need the attorney general to step forward or the prosecutor to step forward,” said Edison Mayor Thomas Lankey.  “Some evidence has come forth that would lead them to do further investigations.”

Lankey and Council President Robert Diehl have strongly criticized the state’s failure to fully investigate an anonymous mailer that promised to “Make Edison Great Again,” by telling voters that the “Chinese and Indians are taking over our town.”  It targeted school board candidates of Chinese and Indian descent, with the word “deported” stamped over their photos.

Lankey criticized prosecutors for dragging their heels.

“It is frustrating to have this event that occurred three years ago and to this day have not decided and uncovered and determined who was responsible,” he said.  “Nobody has been interviewed and nobody has been spoken to, they have not reached out.”

“You would think if you are doing an active investigation and actually trying to get to the bottom of it, you would actually reach out to the individuals who have investigated before and seek out whatever evidence is there,” said Lankey.

Edison Police Chief Thomas Bryan, who was helping the township council investigate the flyer, was told to stand down and that the attorney general was investigating, Diehl said at a press conference.

I was encouraged because I believed another level of law enforcement would take and help us,” stated Diehl.  “We’re not professional law enforcement, we’re not professional investigators.  We’re a subcommittee. We were able to gather a great deal of testimony and evidence.”

Diehl revealed that he had a brief conversation with Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone, who indicted that the attorney general’s office was working on the case.

“We’ve been careful not to interfere. We stepped back because we did not want to interfere,” the council president said.  “My conversation with the Middlesex County Prosecutor was a good one.  It was an encouraging one.”

In a tape obtained by the New Jersey Globe, Councilman Ajay Patil said he witnessed Satish Poondi, a partner at the Wilentz law firm, assembling that racist mailer at the home of the Democratic Municipal Chairman, Mahesh Bhagia, in 2017.

Lankey and Diehl said they both believe Patil’s story.

“I have no reason not to believe Councilman Patil.  I assume the councilman would be telling the truth,” Diehl said. “He came and approached us in what I believe is in good faith to tell us what he believed was the story behind it and who was involved, and I have to take him at his word at this time.”

According to Diehl, Poondi’s version of the events captured on a tape at the Chowpatty Restaurant in Edison last year matched up to the statement he gave to a U.S. Postal Investigator.

“What couldn’t we understand is ‘where’s the help?”  We had the evidence, we had the testimony,” Diehl said.  “We’re not going to stop.  We’re not going to let this just go away.  We are asking for help.  We don’t want to wait much longer.”

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