NJ Top News 1/20 – Trump Pardons Political Elite in NJ
Donald Trump issued a series of pardons and commutations in the waning hours of his presidency, including a handful with connections to New Jersey.
Friends, political operatives, elected officials and criminal justice reform advocates have been lobbying the remnants of the Trump administration in recent days. Just after 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, the White House released a list of 73 pardons and 70 commutations. They include former chief strategist Steve Bannon, two rap stars, and former members of Congress.
The last-minute clemency follows separate waves of pardons over the last month for Trump associates convicted in the FBI's Russia investigation as well as for the father of his son-in-law, who was prosecuted by then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.
Trump did not, however, offer pardons for himself, his children or her personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
The list of pardons and commutations include individuals with connections to New Jersey:
- Former Ocean County GOP leader George Gilmore, convicted last April of failing to pay payroll taxes at his law firm and submitting a false loan application, but was acquitted of filing false tax returns by a jury that also deadlocked on tax evasion charges. Prosecutors had alleged that Gilmore spent lavishly while failing to pay more than $1 million in taxes between 2013 and 2015. Former governors Chris Christie, Jim Florio, Jim McGreevey and Donald DiFrancisco lobbied for the president's favor. In commuting Gilmore's sentence, Trump wrote: "Mr. Gilmore has made important civic contributions over his career in New Jersey."
- Kenneth Kurson was charged with cyberstalking related to a nasty divorce in 2015. Kurson's ex-wife was among those who lobbied on his behalf and wrote a “powerful letter” to prosecutors stating she never wanted an investigation or arrest. Kurson was part of Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign, ran for Assembly in 2003 while living in Montclair and was part of the political consulting firm Jamestown Associates in Princeton, which counted Christie and the RNC among its clients. According to CNBC he was considered a confidant of Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. He edited the New York Observer when it was owned by Kushner.
- Dr. Frederick Nahas, of Somers Point, who was investigated for billing fraud in the 1990s, according to the order. While the investigation turned up no fraud he pled guilty to one count of obstructing justice in a health care investigation and spent one month in prison in 2003, according to the order. He is currently specializes in vascular surgery at Shore Medical Center. The pardon was supported by Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who is also a dentist.
- Salomon Melgen, who was convicted of $73 million worth of healthcare fraud and false statements. While not a New Jersey resident, Melgen is a close friend and mega-donor to New Jersey U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. Melgen considered Menendez a brother and made six figure contributions to his campaign and gave him luxurious gifts in exchange for the senator’s intervention in a Medicare problem. In his order, President Trump wrote: "Numerous patients and friends testify to his generosity in treating all patients, especially those unable to pay or unable to afford healthcare insurance.”
- Eliyahu Weinstein, who currently is in the eighth year of a 24-year sentence for real estate investment fraud after promising investors he would make them millions by buying real estate at below market prices and “flip” the property. Prosecutors said he used bogus deeds and mortgages and also exploited the Orthodox Jewish community's practice of engaging in financial transactions without substantial paperwork. According to the order commuting his sentence, Weinstein, a father of seven, had the support of many of his victims and Van Drew after maintaining an "exemplary prison history." He will have strong support from his community and members of his faith," according to the order.
More N.J. Top News:
- Inauguration day means vastly different things for an America still deeply divided over politics and the pandemic.
- A woman who is a frequent protestor in New Jersey is seen on video yelling "we need more men" during the Capitol incursion.
- A New Jersey man charged in the D.C. riots says he believed Donald Trump would join them.
- Gov. Murphy says opening up vaccine eligibility was the right thing to do, despite not having enough vaccine.
- The pandemic has made many things more difficult. Divorce is not one of them.
- N.J. Department of Labor finally gets it right and begins paying out enhanced unemployment benefits.
- Welfare reforms with a work requirement are advancing at the State House.
(Dan Alexander, Erin Vogt, and the Associated Press Contributed to this report)
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