City councilman among the 4 electoral fraud charges in New Jersey

Paterson City Councilman Michael Jackson, Councilman-elect Alex Mendez, Shelim Khalique and Abu Razyen have been charged with criminal conduct involving mail-in ballots during the election.

“Today’s charges send a clear message: If you try to manipulate an election in New Jersey, we will find you and hold you accountable,” Grewal said in a statement. “We will not allow a small number of criminals to undermine the public’s trust in our democratic process.”

The investigation began after the United States Postal Inspection Service found hundreds of mail ballots in a mailbox in Paterson. Numerous additional ballots were found in another mailbox in nearby Haledon, according to a statement from the attorney general. The May 12 New Jersey elections were held by mail ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jackson, 48, is charged with fraud by casting a vote by mail, unauthorized possession of ballots, tampering with public records, and falsifying or tampering with records.

He allegedly violated state electoral law as a candidate by approaching one or more Paterson voters in the district where he was running and collecting his official ballots by mail, according to the statement.

New Jersey allows a “carrier” to take multiple people’s ballots and deliver them to the county board of elections. A bearer can collect and deliver ballots for only three people, and an election candidate can never be a bearer.

Jackson allegedly did not identify himself as the bearer of the ballots by mail that he delivered to the Passaic County Board of Elections, and he allegedly had more than three ballots that were not his.

A Jackson attorney told CNN Thursday that his client will plead not guilty.

“He will dispute all of these charges,” Theodore Kyles Jr. said in a statement. “And I can tell you that Councilman Jackson is a good public servant with many, many years of distinguished service to the community, even before being elected to the city council.”

Likewise, Méndez is accused of electoral fraud, fraud by casting a vote by mail, unauthorized possession of ballots, false registration or transfer, manipulation of public records, and falsification or manipulation of records, according to the statement.

He allegedly approached one or more voters in Paterson, where he was running, collected the official ballots by mail and delivered them to the Passaic County Board of Elections without identifying himself as the bearer.

Apparently, Mendez also received and submitted one or more voter registration applications that he knew were false, fictitious, or fraudulent, knowing that the person on the application was not eligible to vote in the constituency. Paul Brickfield, Méndez’s lawyer, told CNN on Thursday: “He will plead not guilty to the charges.”

“He hopes to be vindicated,” said Brickfield. “He hopes to swear in on July 1 as the duly elected councilor for District 3.”

Razyen, 21, is charged with fraud by casting a vote by mail and unauthorized possession of ballots. He was reportedly seen on video with more than three mail-in ballot envelopes that did not have the full carrier portion, according to the statement.

Brian Eyerman, a lawyer for Razyen, told CNN on Thursday: “In the pursuit of power over people, politics becomes a bloody sport. I have a young man at the peak of his life, now facing an event that changes his life, after he was victimized and after contacting the police to help him. “

“I intend to fight for this young man’s life,” Eyerman continued. “I have no intention of sitting down while my client becomes collateral damage in a game of politics. The spirit of the game and selective prosecutions have no purpose in our justice system and we cannot play politics with the lives of women. persons”.

Khalique, 51, faces the same charges as Razyen along with tampering with public records and falsifying or tampering with records. He allegedly collected and submitted ballots that were not his and did not identify himself as the bearer when they were delivered to the Passaic County Board of Elections, the attorney general said in the statement.

Separately, Kahlique was charged with contract fraud related to the bus company he owns, A-1 Elegant Tours Inc. Joseph Rotella, a lawyer for Khalique, told CNN that his client denies the allegations and plans to plead not guilty.

“My client denies all allegations of wrongdoing and hopes to review what the state claims is the evidence against him,” said Rotella.

CNN’s Rob Frehse and Anna Sturla contributed to this report.