Disgraced ex-Paterson mayor charged anew after making forbidden bid for office

By: - March 11, 2022 6:13 pm

Joey Torres resigned in disgrace in 2017 after pleading guilty to a public corruption charge. (Photo by New Jersey Monitor)

Former Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres was charged Friday with criminal contempt for launching a new mayoral campaign despite a 2017 criminal conviction that barred him from seeking public office again.

Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin announced the fourth-degree charge against Torres, 63, who said last month he would challenge Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh in this year’s mayoral race.

Torres, a Democrat, admitted in 2017 that, as mayor, he had ordered city employees to work on the city’s dime at a private warehouse leased by his daughter and nephew. As part of his plea deal, he agreed never to hold a public job or elective office, or else he would face a criminal contempt charge.

“Attorney General Platkin just sent a strong message that justice will prevail in Paterson,” Sayegh told the New Jersey Monitor.

Torres could not be reached to comment.

“State law provides that any person convicted of a crime involving their public office will be forever barred from holding another public position in New Jersey,” Platkin said in a statement. “To promote public trust and integrity in government, we must ensure that this law and the court orders issued to implement it are rigorously enforced.”

Sayegh, who is seeking his second term in May’s nonpartisan municipal race, is facing a slew of challengers, including two men who are facing indictments for alleged voter fraud.

Torres has been hinting at a mayoral run for months. He gave a speech in February announcing his new bid for mayor and asking audience members to vote for him in May.

He attempted to submit 1,150 nominating petitions to the city’s clerk on March 4, but the clerk rejected them, citing his 2017 guilty plea. Torres sued Paterson this week to get on the ballot, saying he is not banned from running for office and the issue of whether he can hold office if elected does not need to be addressed now.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Brogan scheduled a hearing in the case for March 21, and said in a court filing Wednesday the court would notify the Attorney General’s Office about the hearing.

“Plaintiff is advised that this application may subject him to criminal prosecution” pursuant to his 2017 guilty plea, Brogan wrote.

Fourth-degree crimes are punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, according to Platkin’s office.

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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.

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