BAYONNE, NJ - Peter Franco, a long time activist and current candidate for First Ward Council, claimed on Facebook Monday that an online news report about his discharge from the United States Army got important details wrong.
A story published by Hudson County View last week revealed that Franco received a bad conduct discharge after being convicted of aggravated sexual assault while enlisted in the Army.
Rumors of Franco's past have circulated on the internet for more than five years, including the appearance of documents that allegedly reported details concerning his discharge. But the source of these documents could not previously be traced back to the official sources. Hudson County View (HCV), however, said the news organization obtained the official documents through a Freedom of Information Act request.
TAPinto Bayonne also filed a similar FOIA request, but has not yet received a reply – which sometimes take weeks depending on the complexity of the request.
According to the news report that was later picked up by New Jersey Globe, Franco served three years in confinement, a reduction in rank and loss of pay and allowances as a result of a conviction.
Franco later appealed the sentence twice, according to the story, and was denied in both attempts.
Franco said the case against him was based on a relationship gone bad.
“I got married in January 2006 at the age of 23, and voluntarily joined the U.S. army a few weeks later.
My wife and her son from a previous marriage joined me at Fort Hood, Texas in March 2007. We eventually agreed that our existing marital problems were irreconcilable, so we decided to divorce in May 2007 and made arrangements to separate in early July,” Franco wrote in his post. “The night before they were due to leave Texas, my step son made explosive allegations that I sexually assaulted him. Those allegations were completely false, and made as retribution for the failed marriage between myself and his mother. I was the party who ultimately filed for divorce in August 2007, which became final by November of that year.”
Franco said he was never arrested for those allegations, but the army conducted an investigation.
“All pending charges were dismissed in December 2007,” he said. “Those charges later resurfaced after my ex-wife submitted photographs taken before we met, which were then used to cast doubt about my sexuality in the minds of my superiors. This occurred during a time of 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell', when displaying homosexual tendencies in itself was a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
The two day court martial was conducted in August 2008 in which he was found guilty of allegedly having sex with a child under the age of 16, according to the HCV report.
“The proceedings were rushed and key witnesses were subsequently unable to testify on my behalf. As a result, I was convicted of one charge and acquitted of the rest,” Franco said. “In the end, I served less than three years for a crime I did not commit, and received a bad conduct discharge from the army...I was classified by the HCPO as low-risk, which is why my name doesn’t appear on public sex offender registration lists... Throughout this entire process, I’ve maintained my innocence and soldiered on, as my supporters and I will now do after this latest attack.”
“As per HCV’s own reporting, neither the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office (HCPO) nor the Bayonne Police Department could confirm a conviction or classification under NJ law,” Franco said. “That is because those agencies are legally prohibited from making 'an improper community notification.'”
Franco called it a political stunt.
“This was an orchestrated attack from the same political machinery that has been anonymously circulating these same documents since 2014,” Franco said. “Public officials with a political motivation to derail my campaign also had the financial means to influence HCV to carry out the establishment’s dirty work with this particular piece of reporting.”
John Heinis, Hudson County View’s owner, refuted Franco’s assertion telling TAPinto Bayonne that ‘while Peter Franco wants to make this about politics it’s about reporting the facts. The information came from a Freedom of Information Act request” he said, reaffirming that his publication received and verified their documents from two “federal officials that went on the record.”
Franco said he has filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request to obtain information concerning the financial arrangements between HCV and the city – although key city workers in other Hudson County towns say towns frequently place ads in various publications for events and to provide other public information.
Heinis told TAPinto Bayonne that HCV has never received any financial compensation from the City of Bayonne.
While Franco has suggested he might take legal action, he has not yet done so.
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