TRENTON, NJ - First Ward Councilman Michael Jackson and Third Ward Councilman Alex Mendez have been charged with voting fraud, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has announced. Two other men, Shelim Khalique, Wayne, and Abu Razyen, Prospect Park, were also charged in connection with their alleged actions leading up to the May 12 election.
Mendez faces the most serious charge of voter fraud which carries a potential sentence of 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine while the most serious crimes Jackson, Khalique, and Razyen are charged with bring up to three to five years in prison and fines of up to $15,000.
“Today’s charges send a clear message: if you try to tamper with an election in New Jersey, we will find you and we will hold you accountable,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We will not allow a small number of criminals to undermine the public’s confidence in our democratic process.”
The investigation into the alleged fraud first became a talking point in the days leading up to the election and centered around reports that hundreds of mail-in ballots were found in a mailbox in Paterson. Numerous additional ballots were also found in a mailbox in nearby Haledon.
All four men are alleged to have improperly collected mail-in ballots and delivered them to the Board of Elections without properly identifying themselves as the bearer.
Additionally, in at least one instance, Jackson is said to have collected a mail in a ballot from a voter that was neither voted or sealed, and that the ballot was subsequently delivered completed to the Board of Elections in a sealed envelope.
Referring to him as a “fine public servant with a distinguished record of serving the community for many years," Theodore E. Kyles, an attorney representing Jackson, told TAPinto Paterson that his client will be pleading not guilty and contesting all of the charges.
Mendez, meanwhile, is alleged to have collected and submitted one or more voter registration applications which he knew to be false, fictitious or fraudulent, in that he knew the individual for whom the application was procured was not eligible to vote in the election district identified on the form.
While there has been no additional response, a spokesperson for Mendez said previously that he "had the overwhelming support of his community even with voter suppression, intimidation, and harassment.”
Earlier this month Third Ward Councilman Bill McKoy, who was bested by Mendez in both an initial tally of the votes as well as a recount, asked a judge to order a new election after several irregularities surfaced in the all vote-by-mail election.
“As an elections lawyer, I can say with some expertise that voter fraud is extraordinarily rare, and it is precisely because it is so rare that what happened in Paterson stands out like a sore thumb,” Scott Salmon, an attorney representing McKoy said in a statement when the court filing was made. “Ultimately, we believe that it is impossible to tell with any reasonable certainty who actually won this election, and so we call on all other candidates to join us in demanding a new election, one that is fair, free, and results in a true expression of the will of the public.”
Know a story we should share with readers? Email editor Steve Lenox and tell him about it.