Home>Highlight>Matt O’Donnell seeks delay in civil case, cites ‘ongoing criminal matters’

Matt O'Donnell, top, with two unidentified individuals in an undated photo. (Photo: Obtained by the New Jersey Globe).

Matt O’Donnell seeks delay in civil case, cites ‘ongoing criminal matters’

Attorneys for cooperating witness wants to halt civil lawsuit filed by Holmdel Township against ex-tax appeal counsel

By David Wildstein, December 09 2021 7:49 pm

The state’s cooperating witness in a political corruption sting wants a judge to hold up a civil lawsuit because it could impact “other ongoing criminal matters.”

Matthew O’Donnell, a Morristown tax appeal attorney, entered into a plea agreement with state prosecutors in 2018 but didn’t appear in court until October 2021.

Holmdel filed a lawsuit in September alleging that O’Donnell overbilled taxpayers during the time he was a cooperating witness, and a judge restrained his ability to sell any property owned by him or his law firm, O’Donnell McCord, until after the litigation is completed.

But in court filings on Wednesday, O’Donnell’s attorneys in the civil suit asked Superior Judge Linda Grasso Jones to dissolve temporary restraints and to either dismiss the complaint or stay it until after the state’s criminal proceedings are settled.

“Although Mr. O’Donnell has already pled guilty to the certain counts filed against him, his plea was made pursuant to a cooperation agreement, and he has yet to be sentenced,” his attorneys stated in their brief.  “Mr. O’Donnell’s participation in this civil action will not only interfere with his ability to continue to serve as a valuable cooperator, but also jeopardize the State’s investigation of, and ability to use Mr. O’Donnell as a witness in, the other ongoing criminal matters.”

O’Donnell’s attorneys, Maxwell Billek of Wilson Elser and Charles Uliano of Chamlin Uliano & Walsh, suggest that while O’Donnell did nothing wrong as it relates to Holmdel, if he did, it needs to take a back seat to the probe.

It’s not immediately clear whether the sudden plea by O’Donnell was intended to halt discovery in Holmdel’s bid to recover legal fees, since everything is fair game in a civil proceeding.

The state attorney general has not moved to intervene in the case.

O’Donnell allegedly committed additional crimes after he entered into a plea agreement with the New Jersey attorney general’s office on July 30, 2018, court records show.

In a court appearance on Wednesday, O’Donnell admitted to tampering with public records “between on or about September 7, 2018 and on or about March 1, 2019” – after his initial plea agreement.

While O’Donnell had initially agreed to seven-year state prison term, a revised plea agreement he signed on October 25, 2021, appears to have acknowledged more criminal acts beginning about five weeks after he signed his first plea — and eight months after he began cooperating with prosecutors.

Despite that, it appears prosecutors offered O’Donnell a better deal that the one he got three years ago: three years in prison instead of seven.

That could mean O’Donnell, caught continuing to violate laws while serving as the government’s key witness in the upcoming prosecutions of at least three former elected officials, might have stepped up his level of cooperation – something that could lead to charges against additional current or former public officials or former candidates.

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