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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Judge: Newark councilwoman must forfeit her seat

A judge has ordered Newark Councilwoman Dana Rone to give up her seat after she used her standing as a councilwoman to interfere with a traffic stop involving her nephew.

The order came after the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, at one point, asked the judge to apply state law to Ms. Rone's case that requires public officials convicted of certain crimes to forfeit their offices.

The prosecutor's office later reversed that stance, but the judge went ahead and ruled that Ms. Rone must be removed anyway, in a decision handed down Tuesday.

Ms. Rone was charged, tried, and convicted of obstruction of justice after she showed up during the traffic stop, informed the officer that "she was a councilwoman," and attempted to stop the officer from performing his duties.

Ms. Rone then appealed the verdict to a higher court, but a judge there vindicated the lower court's decision, opening the way for today's court order requiring Ms. Rone to step down from a legislative office in one of the state's largest cities.

"At a point in time when she had only held elected office for about five months, she abused that office, improperly invoking it loudly and repeatedly in an effort to intimidate a police officer from performing his lawful duty," wrote Assignment Judge Patricia K. Costello.

Judge Costello also took time in her ruling to criticize the actions of Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow, who originally asked for Ms. Rone's removal but eventually withdrew the request, amid accusations of political considerations.

Earlier this year, Trenton Councilwoman Annette Lartigue reportedly told police in Trenton to "stand down", on a cell phone handed to the intervening officer who initiated a traffic stop involving the councilwoman's daughter.

But the daughter did receive multiple motor vehicle summonses, the councilwoman never physically appeared at the scene of the stop, unlike the Rone incident in Newark, and no charges were filed against Ms. Lartigue.

1 comment:

Mr. CleƤn said...

Now there's a nice, timely precedent! Me likey!!!