PATERSON, NJ – Making his first public statements after being arrested in the Attorney General’s election fraud investigation earlier this month, embattled City Councilman Rigo Rodriguez said the case against him was political retribution.
Rodriguez made a 10-minute speech at the December 21 meeting of the city council, after about a dozen residents spoke passionately about his case. Some defended him. Others urged him to resign.
“Please give me the benefit of the doubt,’’ Rodriguez said. “I’m not the man they tainted me with. I’m not the man they portrayed me as.’’
Rodriguez has been charged with coaching his supporters on how they should respond to questions by the Attorney General’s investigators. He was among 14 people arrested in a case in which authorities say participants committed voter fraud by tampering with absentee ballots.
Rodriguez, an incumbent in the May election, originally lost the election by a handful of votes, but won after a recount tallied 49 absentee ballots that were found in a box in a closet at the Board of Elections offices.
Rodriguez said he was the one who originally asked the Attorney General to investigate why the county Board of Elections had lost the box of ballots. The inquiry against him was in retaliation for that, he said. He also said officials in the Passaic County Democratic hierarchy were out to get him because he said he’s an up-and-coming, “bright guy’’ who was a threat to them.
“This was orchestrated, this was well-orchestrated,’’ he said.
Rodriguez also said the charges against him represented a strike against the Latino community and its political success in the city.
“Somehow, they need to demoralize that,’’ Rodriguez said.