PATERSON, NJ – In proceedings colored by increasingly antagonistic exchanges between the competing lawyers, Councilman Mohammed Akhtaruzzman’s membership in a Bengali community group was the focus of testimony Monday morning in the trial of a lawsuit seeking to have him removed from office.
The attorney for former Councilman Aslon Goow, who filed the lawsuit challenging Akhtaruzzman’s residency in the recent 2nd Ward City Council election, produced in court what he described as a 2011-2013 voter registration list for the Jalalabad Association of America Inc. that said Akhtaruzzman’s address was 105 Jefferson Place in Totowa.
Goow’s lawyer, Michael DeMarco, was attempting to show that Akhtaruzzman voted in the group’s organizational election using the Totowa address in July 2011. In order to have been eligible to run for city council, Akhtaruzzman had to live in Paterson’s 2nd Ward by May 2011.
But the validity of the Jalalabad book quickly came into question.
“We’re looking at a book with pages ripped out, this is ridiculous,’’ said one of Akhtaruzzman’s lawyers, Joe Garcia.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Brogan said the book could not be used as evidence in the case, but the judge allowed DeMarco to use it as a reference to question one of the witnesses, Aziz Rahman, Akhtaruzzman’s campaign treasurer and vice president of Jalalabad.
Rahman testified that different members of the group keep their own versions of the membership voting book and he said that the information in them is not always accurate. Rahman also testified that it was not clear exactly when Akhtaruzzman filled out his Jalalabad registration listing the Totowa address.
When asked by DeMarco whether Akhtaruzzman was a member of the group, Rahman said, “I can’t recall it…I don’t know. I’ll have to check.’’
The clashes between the lawyers happened several times. At one point, one of Akhtaruzzman’s lawyers, Curtis La Forge, was reviewing the Jalalabad book when DeMarco barked at him: “Can I have the book?’’
“You don’t need to yell,’’ La Forge snapped back.
At various times during the morning, Brogan admonished lawyers on both sides for their behavior. He told La Forge to stop coaching witnesses through his objections, and he chastised DeMarco for making inappropriate comments during his questioning.
“Please, stop it,’’ Brogan told the lawyers.