Home>Highlight>State offers Windish a deal: 5 years in prison, two before parole

Former Mount Arlington Councilman John Windish appears virtually in Superior Court on April 19, 2021. (Photo: Zoom/NJ Globe.)

State offers Windish a deal: 5 years in prison, two before parole

Former Mount Arlington councilman is one of the small fish netted by cooperating witness Matt O’Donnell

By David Wildstein, April 19 2021 9:51 am

Prosecutors have offered former Mount Arlington Councilman John Windish a plea agreement that includes five years in prison after allegedly taking a cash bribe from Matthew O’Donnell, the state’s cooperating witness in a political corruption sting operation.

But Windish has not yet accepted the offer.

“We are in discussion,” said Ricardo Solano, Windish’s attorney.

Windish would have to serve two years without the possibility of parole, according to an overview of the offer discussed with Superior Court Stephen Taylor on Monday morning.

The state attorney general’s office charged Windish with bribery last December, alleging that he took an envelope with $7,000 in cash from O’Donnell.  Prosecutors allege that Windish took the money in exchange for a commitment that he would vote to reappoint O’Donnell as the municipal attorney.

Windish will be back in court in June.

O’Donnell agreed to plead guilty to one count of second degree Conspiracy to Commit Misconduct by a Corporate Official and forfeit $600,00 he made through an elaborate scheme that used illegal straw donors and cash contributions to obtain lucrative taxpayer-funded legal contracts.

The state will recommend that O’Donnell serve eight years in a state prison, according to a plea agreement obtained by the New Jersey Globe through a document request from the state judiciary.

But prosecutors and O’Donnell also agreed that the forfeiture amount would be “be subject to an upward revision to account for prospective profits that the defendant derives from illegal activities occurring after the date of this agreement but in connection with his cooperation.”

The prosecution of O’Donnell has been going on for nearly four years.

O’Donnell entered into a plea agreement on July 30, 2018 that included a permanent disqualification from holding any public position “at the time of this plea.”

Still, prosecutors allowed O’Donnell to serve as municipal attorney in East Hanover and Mount Arlington and as a tax appeal counsel for about 18 other government entities for another 17 months, departing only when he was identified as a cooperating witness and was dropped by most of his clients.

During that time, the state allowed O’Donnell’s criminal enterprise to continue while he billed taxpayers an estimated $4.6 million.

As a cooperating witness, O’Donnell continued to make illegal contributions to candidates and influence elections,  this time under the watch of the state attorney general.

O’Donnell has not yet been charged with any crime.

Records show that O’Donnell agreed to be debarred from doing any business with a New Jersey government entity for ten years, effective at the time of his plea in 2018.  He remains an attorney in good standing.

Nicodemo acknowledged that O’Donnell met with prosecutors under a proffer agreement in January 2018 and said there were meetings before that with O’Donnell’s attorney, Thomas R. Calcagni, and the state attorney general’s office.

O’Donnell agreed not apply to the Pretrial Intervention Program but is permitted to seek participation in the Intensive Supervision Program, a sort of prison without walls that allows offenders to remain in their community.

According to the plea agreement, O’Donnell faces a $250,00 public corruption profiteering penalty and a fine of up to $150,000.

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