Essex County News

Mayor Baraka hires Bridgegate defense lawyer Michael Critchley

f1500d921b810903b47a_MichaelCritchley.jpg
Michael Critchley, who represented Bridget Ann Kelley in the Bridgegate trial, was retained by Mayor Ras Baraka. Credits: Getty Images
f3bbccf45ea3a21c38df_DSCN3296.JPG
b6b41973c92b006143db_cityhall1.JPG
f1500d921b810903b47a_MichaelCritchley.jpg

One of the state's top criminal defense lawyers who represented Bridget Anne Kelly in the Bridgegate trial was retained by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to defend him in a civil suit brought by the city's former attorney.

Baraka filed a motion this weekpdf in U.S. District Court in Newark to replace attorneys Carmagnola and Ritardi with Michael Critchley of Critchley, Kinum and Denoia.

In addition to defending Kelly in the Bridgegate trial, Critchley has defended such notables as Michael "Mad Dog" Taccetta, high-ranking member of Luccese crime family, former financier Robert Brennan; and former Essex County Executive James Treffinger.

Sign Up for E-News

The high-profile attorney will defend Baraka against former city attorney Willie Parker, who filed a discrimination and retaliation suit against the mayor and three co-defendants in June.

Parker filed the suit against the city, the mayor, his brother and chief of staff Amiri “Middy” Baraka, Jr., Business Administrator Jack Kelly and Personnel Director Kecia Daniels, claiming that he was retaliated against after he refused to sign off on a multi-million-dollar development deal between the city and a developer.

In his suit, Parker claims that he advised the administration not to go forward with the deal after he discovered an added contractual provision that would have cost the city millions of dollars a year.

Soon after, city officials allegedly began a campaign of discrimination and retaliation against Parker, with Middy Baraka allegedly going to Parker’s home with armed body guards and accusing him of “snitching” to the mayor.

Parker later suffered a heart attack but returned to work once his medical leave expired. Upon his return, Parker claims that termination proceedings had begun and that he was allegedly locked out of his office, blocked from email access and ultimately fired.

Parker is suing for punitive damages in the amount of $1 million to $5 million.

A call to Critchley was not returned.

Both the mayor and his brother were originally represented by Carmagnola and Ritardi. On August 25, Middy Baraka filed a motionpdf to replace the firm with Raymond M. Brown from the law offices of Greenbaum, Rowe Smith and Davis. 

Brown serves as co-counsel for U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, who is currently facing trial in federal court on a slew of federal corruption charges including bribery, fraud and conspiracy.

“I find it interesting that the interests of the mayor and the city are unaligned to the degree that these two defendants require separate counsel,” said Jack White, Parker's lawyer.

Middy Baraka's hiring of Brown came just three days before Domenick Carmagnola filed a response to Parker's suit on behalf of the mayor and the city. As part of the response, Mayor Baraka filed a cross claim against Middy Baraka and the other two defendants, effectively pointing the finger at his co-defendants, claiming that he should not be penalized for the actions of others named in the suit.

“If any of the employees of the city engaged in any wrongful acts toward plaintiff, said acts were outside the scope of their employment with the city defendant and were independent, intervening and unforeseeable acts that were not ratified, confirmed or approved by the City Defendant and therefore cannot be attributed or imputed to the city defendant,” Carmagnola wrote in the cross claim.

Just days ago, Newark’s city council authorized payment of $200,000 legal fees to attorneys for Middy Baraka, Kelly and Daniels. A payment in the amount of $125,000 will go to the law offices of Greenbaum, Rowe Smith and Davis along with up to $75,000 for legal fees to Tompkins, McGuire, Wachenfeld and Barry, attorneys for Daniels and Kelly.

The council previously authorized a payment in June of $60,000 towards Mayor Baraka's legal fees.

Frank Baraff, a spokesman for the city, responded to a question about whether the City Council would need to authorize payment to Critchley with a one word answer: "Yes."

Critchley, who has been described as a “tiger,” has also represented failed presidential candidate John Edwards’ mistress, along with Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez on bribery charges. 

Critchley has tried more than 100 cases in federal and state courts involving securities fraud, anti-trust violations, tax fraud, and official misconduct and has made it onto several who's who lists of attorneys. He formerly served as an Assistant Prosecutor in the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and later served as assistant counsel to Governor Brendan Byrne.

"Michael Critchley is one of the best and most ethical layers in the state," said Joseph Hayden, another top criminal defense lawyer with the law firm of Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, located in Hackensack, New Jersey.  

TAPinto Newark editor Mark J. Bonamo contributed to this report.

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Verona/Cedar Grove

Millburn 1 of 13 School Districts in NJ to Close Schools for Diwali

July 19, 2018

GLEN ROCK, NJ - Next year, Millburn Township Public Schools will be closed on November 7 for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. Thirteen schools around the state, including Millburn, will close on the most popular day of the Hindu festival Diwali, while one will close on Nov. 6. 

As the festival of lights, Diwali "aims to dispel the ...

Cedar Grove Police Blotter

July 8, 2018

July 2, 2018 – July 8, 2018

On July 3, 2018 at 7:22 a.m., Ptl. Kristian Schneider responded to a David Road address to take a report of a suspicious vehicle. The resident observed a black four door vehicle stop in front of her home at approximately 5:20 a.m. She noticed that both passenger side doors were open and then observed two black males walking from the area of her driveway. She ...

Got Mint? Bayonne Police Charge Man with Stealing $1,000 in Toothpaste

July 17, 2018

BAYONNE, NJ – The case of a near lifetime supply of toothpaste that was taken from a Bayonne pharmacy has been solved.

Marcos Baez, 40, of Isabella Avenue, was charged with four counts of shoplifting after police identified him as the person responsible for stealing more than $1,000 worth of toothpaste, according to a police release.

Police were called to the Rite Aid at 12-16 North ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_c59c9acb1abc7cdb8c6a_mini_magick20180510-124227-5wdsnf

Mon, July 23, 9:00 AM

Sellitto Field, Verona

Verona Football 2018 Summer Camp

Sports

Mon, July 23, 7:00 PM

Hospital Auditorium, Glen Ridge

Tour of the Birthing Center

Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_c59c9acb1abc7cdb8c6a_mini_magick20180510-124227-5wdsnf

Tue, July 24, 9:00 AM

Sellitto Field, Verona

Verona Football 2018 Summer Camp

Sports

Calling Local Artists!

July 17, 2018

The Township of Verona is looking to run some new events around town focused on the arts and would like to hear from all the amazing local talent we have here in Verona and the surrounding towns. Please send an email to stneale@veronanj.org if you would like to hear more and get involved.

LOCAL BUSINESSES: Please contact if interested in hosting an exhibit at your location.