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TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that Paterson City Councilmen Michael Jackson and Alex Mendez have been indicted by a state grand jury on charges of election fraud and other offenses related to the May 12, 2020 special election in the City of Paterson.
Jackson, 49, who is First Ward councilman, and Mendez, 45, who is Third Ward councilman, were initially charged by complaint summons on June 25, 2020, along with Shelim Khalique, 52, of Wayne, N.J., and Abu Razyen, 23, of Prospect Park, N.J. The original charges filed by complaint against Khalique and Razyen remain pending. All four men are charged with criminal conduct involving mail-in ballots during the election.
The investigation by the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity & Accountability (OPIA) began when the U.S. Postal Inspection Service alerted the Attorney General’s Office that numerous mail-in ballots were found in a mailbox in Haledon. Hundreds of mail-in ballots were also found in a mailbox in Paterson. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all voting in the May 2020 elections in New Jersey was done by mail-in ballots.
“These indictments are an important step in our prosecution of these two sitting city councilmen on charges including second-degree election fraud,” said Attorney General Grewal. “As we have seen all too clearly in recent months, public confidence in our democratic process is critical. If anyone tampers with an election in New Jersey and threatens that process, we will hold them accountable.”
“New Jersey’s criminal code includes various indictable offenses related to election fraud and, in particular, fraud involving mail-in ballots,” said OPIA Director Thomas Eicher. “With these indictments, we’re using those laws for their intended purpose— defending free and fair elections by prosecuting those accused of seeking to undermine them.”
Jackson and Mendez were charged by the state grand jury in separate indictments, Jackson on Feb. 17 and Mendez on Feb. 24. They are charged with the following crimes:
- Election Fraud (2nd Degree)
- Fraud in Casting Mail-In Vote (3rd Degree)
- Unauthorized Possession of Ballots (3rd Degree)
- Tampering With Public Records or Information (3rd Degree)
- Falsifying or Tampering with Records (4th Degree)
Mendez is also charged with False Registration or Transfer (3rd Degree) and Attempted False Registration or Transfer (3rd Degree).
Additional details regarding the alleged conduct of the defendants, as set forth in the criminal complaints initially filed against them, are contained in the press release posted at this link:
The indictments are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and fine of up to $15,000. Fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The investigation was conducted by prosecutors and detectives in the OPIA Corruption Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Eric C. Cohen is prosecuting the case, under the supervision of Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione.
For Jackson: Theodore E. Kyles, Jr., Esq., of Clifton, N.J.
For Mendez: Paul Brickfield, Esq., Brickfield & Donahue, River Edge, N.J.
For Khalique: S. Emile Lisboa, Esq., Galantucci & Patuto LLC, Hackensack, N.J.
For Razyen: Brian Neary, Esq., Law Offices of Brian Neary, Hackensack, N.J.