The former mayor of Paterson, New Jersey, was charged with criminal contempt for launching yet another mayoral campaign, violating a court order stemming from a 2017 corruption conviction, officials announced Friday.
Jose “Joey” Torres, who served as Paterson mayor from 2002 through 2010 and then again from 2014 to 2017, spent over a year in state prison after pleading guilty to a second-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct charge.
“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,” said New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin in a statement on Friday. “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.”
As part of the 2017 guilty plea, the former mayor was barred by state law from holding office, officials said. Despite that, Torres began floating the idea of another mayoral run last fall and formally announced his campaign on February 12th, officials said. On March 4, Torres showed up at City Hall to submit signatures to make it onto the ballot, but was turned away, the Bergen Record reported. He subsequently sued, saying his denial was unfair.
“This is a good fight,” Torres told the Bergen Record Friday, shortly after the charge had been filed. “Somebody has to fight for the constitutional rights of former felons.” He couldn’t be reached for further comment immediately.
Torres’s 2017 conviction stemmed from his behavior between July of 2014 and April of 2015. During that time, city workers were assigned to do renovation, painting, carpentry and electrical work in a warehouse run by his daughter and nephew, according to New Jersey’s State Attorney General. They were trying to use the warehouse for wholesale liquor distribution.
Mayoral elections for Paterson, New Jersey’s third largest city, are coming up in May. There are five candidates in the race, including mayoral incumbent Andre Sayegh, former city councilmember Aslon Goow and current members of the council, Alex Mendez, Michael Jackson and Luis Velez, according to the Paterson Times.
The criminal contempt charge could carry a prison sentence of up to 18 months in prison as well as a fine of $10,000 if Torres is convicted, officials said. Torres couldn’t be reached for comment immediately.